Art to walk, run or roll by: Chapel Hill Art + Transit calls for bus shelter designs

May 7, 2020

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Art + Transit is calling on local artists to submit design proposals for their Artistic Bus Shelter opportunity as a way to provide everyday engagement with art and the community.

Past artists have decorated Chapel Hill and Carrboro bus shelter windows with designs ranging from abstract murals to iconic Chapel Hill landmarks in a variety of mediums from acrylic paint to adhesive vinyl and screen prints.

“We spend a lot of time looking at our phones, answering emails or doing those sort of things, because there’s not much else around,” said Brian Litchfield, director of transit for Chapel Hill. “This provides an opportunity to enliven a space that is typically dull.”

Programs like this are part of Chapel Hill Community Arts and Culture and Chapel Hill Transit’s response to the Town Council’s desire to have more art in public spaces.

“Artistic bus shelters provide access to art in a way that anyone who happens by that space can see it,” Litchfield said. “You don’t have to go into a building or access something in order to see this. You can just walk by, run by, drive by or roll by.”

Another important aspect of the opportunity is the effort to give local artists a particular space to share their work and creativity, Litchfield said. In order to apply, the artist proposing the design must live within a 40-mile radius of Chapel Hill.

Sarahlaine Calva is a local artist from Raleigh who brought her self-taught skills in mural design to Chapel Hill bus shelters in last year’s program.

“My piece was raindrops, and that’s pretty much my signature design in most of my artwork,” Calva said. “But with this particular project, it was to represent the shelter’s purpose and how it’s supposed to shield us from different types of weather while at the same time admiring it.”

She said while installing her piece, she was able to engage with the community as they continued to use the bus lines.

“A lot of people thought I was vandalizing, and I even had the cops called on me,” Calva said. “In the end, it was fine because it ended up being informative, telling people about the arts program in Chapel Hill.”

Britt Flood also participated in the program last year, sharing her continuous line design “Star Crossed Lovers” with the Chapel Hill community.

She said a lot of her work often focuses on love and the characters meeting in whimsical ways.

“I wanted to do something a little bit more abstract so that when you’re far away from the bus stop, it kind of looks like a colorful abstract painting,” Flood said.  “But when you get up close, maybe you recognize ‘Oh, I think I see a silhouette, or like a nose, or a pair of lips or something.’”

Flood said she believes this project brings moments of hope to the community during a time of their day where they usually are only focused on getting to the next place and doing the next thing they have to do.

Flood also said she is glad the Town of Chapel Hill is continuing the project this year, especially amidst COVID-19 and social distancing.

“I think that any pop of color anywhere will be super helpful,” Flood said. “Especially with people being able to drive or walk by the bus stop, they can still experience and interact with their art in a safe way.”

Both Calva and Flood said the application process was simple and encouraged local artists to apply and take the opportunity to get their work out in the community.