A new art bus hits the streets of Chapel Hill this week, highlighting the struggle for racial justice and celebrating young community members who rise above racism. Titled Rise Above Racial Injustices, the art bus is a collaboration between several community arts partners, local Black artist and arts educator Debi Drew, and members of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP Youth Council. This bus, along with Orgullo Latino/LatinX Pride by Georges Le Chevallier, are both art buses created during the pandemic to honor inclusivity and diversity.
The art buses along with a growing collection of artistic bus shelters is part of the Town of Chapel Hill’s Art + Transit project. For this new bus, the Town received grant funds from the Orange County Arts Commission and collaborated with the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP Youth Council.
“It was a great opportunity to provide inspiring young artists to think critically about art, race and culture,” says Lorie Clark, youth advisor of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP.
The three Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP Youth Council participants selected for the project were Kennedy Lytle, Sol Ramirez, and Anthony Swann. Each student received a stipend for their time and contributions to the project.
Artist Debi Drew was selected to lead this project because of her artistic expertise and experience working with youth.
Anna Richards, former president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP says “Debi Drew is an accomplished artist, experienced in engaging youth to creatively express themselves through the visual arts. Given the conversations about race during the last year, the bus project is an opportunity to hear from youth social justice activists.”
The planning and design took several months and included in-person workshops with the Youth Council members led by Drew. The lessons covered a variety of inspirational topics from self-concept to racism to social change. Discussion questions, homework, and creative time were built into each workshop, allowing the youth to collectively create around each topic. From these meetings, Drew was able to gather information and art from the youth which inspired the final bus wrap design.
“These sessions provided the materials I needed to produce the bus wrap that speaks of their racial injustice concerns,” says Drew, “My goal was to provide a comfortable space for them to be heard and be motivated to create visual art productions inspired by our discussions in these sessions.”
The result? Four powerful words – Rise Above Racial Injustices – extend across each side of the art bus. Along with this statement, the bus holds three portraits of masked up local teens and their personal missions and motivations for fighting against racism. “My self worth negates racist remarks” by Kennedy Lytle, “Rise above hate” by Sol Ramirez, and “Show empathy for others” by Anthony Swann are all quotes you’ll see on the new bus. The bus is not only a canvas for art but an inspiration for the community to never stop in the fight against social injustices.
Last week, the wrapped bus was initially revealed to the artist, youth, friends, and family, and has now hit the streets of Chapel Hill. Keep an eye out the bold colors, prominent graphics, and inspiring text. This project was funded through several local organizations including two divisions of the Town of Chapel Hill — Transit and Community Arts & Culture, as well as the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, the Orange County Arts Commission, and the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. To see photos of the bus and to learn more about the bus and the Art + Transit program in Chapel Hill, visit chapelhillarts.org/art-transit.
Photos by Mark Losey.