Sistine Chapel or Chapel Hill? Art + Transit program searches for bus ceiling artists

October 27, 2022

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By Jenna Rupp | The Daily Tar Heel

Chapel Hill Community Arts & Culture is calling on local artists to apply for the opportunity to design art for the ceilings of Chapel Hill Transit buses.

The application for the project is now open and will close on Nov. 7 at 5 p.m. Artists must live within a 40-mile radius of Chapel Hill. The application can be found on the Chapel Hill Arts and Culture website.

The project is the latest installation in the Town’s Art + Transit program. The program, a partnership between Chapel Hill Community Arts and Culture and Chapel Hill Transit, began in 2018 as an attempt to bring more vibrancy to the daily commute.

The project has been responsible for art installations on bus shelters, bus exteriors — and now, ceiling vinyl.

Steve Wright, the public art coordinator for Chapel Hill, said the ceiling vinyl project is less expensive than wrapping bus exteriors, so they are able to make more installations. He also said that the art is inside the bus and protected from the elements, which means it can remain in good condition for longer.

“It’s a great way to get artwork and new ideas into people’s everyday lives and in places they may not exactly expect to see it,” Wright said. “It’s a great way to give local artists an opportunity to show their style of artwork.”

Two artists who apply will be selected, and each design will be printed three times, meaning six new buses will have artwork each year, he said.

“Another cool thing is most public art is by nature stationary because it’s attached to a wall or something, but bus artwork is cool because it goes everywhere,” Wright said.

Brian Litchfield, the director of Chapel Hill Transit, said bus ceilings are a great location for the installations because most people are either looking at their phones or off into space when they could be viewing art.

He also said the art will help make the buses warmer and more welcoming.

“If we can make the bus even more comfortable by adding art, then we’re certainly doing that and it meets other priorities of providing artists an opportunity to share their work and our interest in Chapel Hill and Carrboro and the University to expand access to public art,” Litchfield said.

Litchfield said another important aspect of the Art + Transit project is that it allows a showcase for community values. Previous public art projects have showcased values such as Latinx pride, social justice and LGBTQ+ pride.

He said that public art is one way to share information, share stories and make history more accessible.

Georges Le Chevallier, the artist behind the Latinx Pride bus, said that the bus project is different from other public art because it is interactive and constantly moving.

Le Chevalier designed both the external wrapping and a ceiling vinyl for the interior of the Latinx Pride bus. His ceiling design is one of four currently featured in Chapel Hill buses.

Le Chevalier said that what separates public art from fine art is that an artist makes fine art primarily for themself, while public art is more focused on the viewer.

“It’s to embellish the community, to make it look better, but also to make the community proud of what they have,” he said.

He said public art serves many purposes, including bringing pride to a community, educating a community on art and making people’s daily experiences better by providing optimism.

“Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling, so why not a bus?” Le Chevalier said.


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