PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Drive down the roads or through the streets of Lincoln County and you might pass a colorful school bus. The large, flashy automobile is the newly decorated Oregon Coast Art Bus.
The bus has been driving around the county for the past year, delivering free, creative learning projects to students and serving as a mobile art classroom.
On Thursday, the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts revealed its new look.
“We trust that when the bus pulls up that it will cause excitement, especially for little ones to see it because… it does make such an impact,” said Jason Holland, executive director of the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts.
The council partnered with the Oregon Cultural Trust to wrap the bus in a giant mural. The design, by Eugene-based artist Liza Mana Burns, resembles the artwork selected for the “Celebrate Oregon!” license plate, which benefits the Oregon Cultural Trust.
Since the license plate was unveiled in fall 2021, the trust has had murals of the artwork installed in Oregon’s largest airports.
For the bus piece, it asked Mana Burns to customize it to wrap around the vehicle.
“Everyone who has experienced this art has found something in it that they feel personally connected to,” said Carrie Kikel, communications manager for the Oregon Cultural Trust.
The trust said the artwork is a tapestry of Oregon geography that includes 127 symbols that depict the state’s shared arts, history and humanities.
At its grand unveiling ceremony at the Newport Performing Arts Center Thursday, a brass ensemble from the Newport Symphony Orchestra heralded the bus’ arrival. Local children were invited to explore the bus and take part in its art activities. Mana Burns, the artist, also attended the event.
Holland said the bus helps Lincoln County eliminate two crucial barriers that often prevent children from accessing art: transportation and cost.
By building an art classroom inside a school bus, children don’t need to worry about finding a way to access art education – instead, it can come to them. The bus and its services are also free for the community to enjoy and Holland said it will travel to rural towns throughout the county to deliver art programs and workshops.
“We love just saying, ‘Great, we’ll meet you where you are. We’ll come celebrate your creativity wherever you are,’” Holland said.
In the future, the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts plans to retrofit the inside of the bus to make it more accommodating to host workshops. It will have a classroom set up inside where kids can practice art and escape the heavy rain that often dampens the coast.
Holland said the bus’ transformation wouldn’t have been possible without the financial support of the Oregon Cultural Trust, which paid $8,000 toward the project.
Kikel said the trust felt this was the perfect project for them to invest in.
“It’s just so special,” she said. “It’s going to just captivate the children and make them realize that they are involved in something that’s truly special.”
Holland said the Oregon Coast Art Bus is looking for community members and organizations to partner with and support. Anyone interested should reach out to the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts, or stop and say hello when they see the bus.
The Oregon Cultural Trust is also looking for more places to showcase its artwork. Contact information for the trust is available on its website.