The Buzz

Paint the Town

The Avenue Concept and RIPTA collaborate on a fleet of “art buses”

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Urban murals are everywhere now, and they’ve illustrated civic spaces from coast to coast. In Providence, The Avenue Concept has spearheaded 170 public art installations all over the city, most recently the colossal “Still Here” mural. Now that every brick wall can double as a public canvas, the arts organization has branched into transport as well – a partnership with the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority called MOVE RI.

“MOVE RI is a natural progression of the work we’ve been doing for the past five years,” says Yarrow Thorne, founder and executive director of TAC. “Our goal is to make public art accessible to as many people as possible. Now, instead of placing it in a fixed location and waiting for people to come to it, we’re bringing the art to them.”

The project started with two designers, Myles Dumas and Colin Gillespie, who were each assigned a public bus. You’ve likely seen these buses meandering around East Providence: One vehicle is named “PRONK,” which found inspiration in the eponymous brass marching band. The other is called “Move,” and if you stand far enough away, you can see that the layered bolts of color spell out that very word. Both buses share bright, linear patterns, and the designs not only cover the buses’ shells, but their ceilings as well.

The first pair of buses hit the street last fall, and more are planned. The concept has been tried before, when RIPTA collaborated with creative hub AS220 to create a single art bus in 2012. But MOVE RI is ambitious in scope: Thorne hopes to develop 15 art buses in all, each representing a different city ward. The Avenue Concept team has consulted riders, drivers, and passersby, and Thorne says feedback so far has been positive.

“We were excited by his vision and his commitment to public art in Rhode Island,” says Scott Avedisian, RIPTA’s CEO. “These buses provide a wonderful canvas for public art and will also help underscore the fact that public transportation is a multifaceted benefit to the communities it serves.”