Fun Bus is Collaborative Public Art Project

July 17, 2008

July 17, 2008 — The Charlottesville Parks and Recreation Department will soon have a new Fun Bus to transport young people to plays, concerts, art, science, nature-related and other cultural, educational and sports events throughout the year.

Elementary through high school students attending Charlottesville Parks and Recreation summer camp are participating in the public art project led by two local arts organizations: The Piedmont Council for the Arts and The Bridge / Progressive Arts Initiative. The campers helped design the art and will assist in painting the bus.

Sanda Iliescu, U.Va. associate professor of art and architecture, spearheaded the design scheme for the bus that combines visual elements of natural and urban life and summer educational camp workshops working with local artists John Bylander, Mike Parisi and Isabella Scott. The team engaged campers in workshop exercises based on themes of nature and the lessons learned by shared experience through collaboration. Iliescu and other artists met with campers in multiple sessions over a three-week period. The aim was to allow the campers' creative ideas to have an impact on the final design for the bus.

To this end, Iliescu designed two hands-on workshops and Bylander designed one bus art exercise. Campers explored natural forms in Iliescu's "Blades of Grass" workshop. The collected blades of grass, which campers gathered from nearby fields, were used to inspire their drawings, which will be incorporated in the decorated frieze or band running just below the bus windows. In the workshop, campers also learned about color and composition and developed their powers of observation.
Iliescu also infused an abstract component into the lessons. Just as a field of grass is composed of millions of blades, all contributing to the overall effect, each camper's work contributes to the overall design, she said. "The field concept can be a metaphor for democracy — a community of individuals in which each citizen had equal rights and responsibilities."
In a second workshop, Iliescu designed exercises based on geometry. "What's My Height?" engaged the campers in lessons of measurement as well as collaboration. Activities required them to work together both in decision-making and in practical exercises in which they were required to hone their skills in estimation as well as accuracy in creating and exploring geometric shapes. For part of the exercise, campers recorded their own height and foot length, which will be incorporated in the final bus design along a low horizontal band and will act to signify their contributions.

In Bylander’s exercise "Color Our Bus", he asked kids of all ages to create colorful designs on architectural drawings of the bus created by Parisi, a recent graduate of the School of Architecture. These kids’ designs are digitized and printed as decals on the interior soffit of the bus.

"I just love working with these kids, making art and at the same time teaching them something," Iliescu said. The whole project is an extension of her exploration of aesthetic and ethical ideals, which she teaches at the University in a course on painting and public art. In my academic endeavors I have explored the connection between "'good form' and form that in some way contributes to 'the common good,'" Iliescu said.

The design team will lead community members and campers in painting the bus July 12-17 outside Carver Recreation Center at 233 4th Street, N.W.

The Fun Bus will be unveiled on Friday, July 18, at Pen Park from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and at McIntire Park from 12:45 to 1:45 p.m., during Parks and Recreation's summer camp fun day. An exhibition of drawings, photographs and studies related to the project will be exhibited at The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative, 205 Monticello Road from August 1-3. An opening reception will be held Friday, Aug. 1, 6-8 p.m. The exhibit will be on display daily from noon to 3 p.m.

For more information contact Maggie Guggenheimer, director of the Piedmont Council of the Arts and the project coordinator at, 434-971-2787; or Greg Kelly, managing director of The Bridge PAI at