Words to Art: Art on the ART Bus

“Your ART Bus Driver’s Voice is Made Visible in these Artworks”

Artworks in progress at Sushmita’s studio, Studio Pause in Arlington VA

Riders see their ART bus drivers everyday but do they know their stories? I asked the drivers to share words in languages and scripts of their choice. Looking at the letters’ shapes as abstract forms, I explored how familiar and unfamiliar words and writing can become art. Turning their words into art displayed inside the bus through the Art on the ART Bus program, I hope to make the bus drivers’ voices visible to all.

Conceived by Arlington Arts Special Projects Curator, Cynthia Connolly in 2010 in partnership with Arlington Transit, the program is an example of how Arlington Arts is building community through artistic outreach. Showing original art on a public bus, creates a vibrant arts experience for riders. Three Art on the ART busses in circulation rotate different routes everyday. Check out this video about it!

My artworks will be their 20th exhibit.

When Sushmita was asked to think of a project for this that would go up in Feb 2018, here is how she started:

  1. ART Bus crew: If an ART bus is full of art, I wonder what the bus driver, the maintenance crew, and the mechanics think of it? Do they connect with the art or does it get in their way? Do they enjoy it or understand it or do they feel they can’t understand it and it’s not for them? How do the employees who work with transit systems connect with their workspaces? How would they feel if they were part of the art making or art selecting process? What would it mean if the artworks connected with them or their life in a deeper way than just as viewers?
  2. Bus Riders: Transit systems are made for the riders, to best suit their needs. But what do they know about the people who maintain the busses and drive them where they want to go? What will riders feel/think when they learn that their bus crew inspired the art on the bus?

“Thats my word—the name of my hometown,” he said, calling his friend to come into the photo.

“You wrote my language well,” the driver smiles. Its my first time writing Amharic even though I have seen it a lot living in Arlington for 18 years now.


  1. The project begins Nov 30, 2017, when Sushmita and Cynthia attend the monthly safety meetings bus operators attend. They will share info about the project — the recent Washington Post article about Arlington’s Art on the ART Bus, show them the storybook BHOOT! Story of a Boy’s Fear which inspired the project, and do a demo of how she makes words into calligraphic artworks using various implements. Then she will ask the bus crew for their words and take them to her studio to inform her artworks.
  2. Over the next month she will create artworks from the words.
  3. Then they will bring the artworks back to the bus drivers who get to view them first and give feedback.
  4. The artwork will be installed on an ART bus Feb 2018 and will stay on view till Dec 2018.

STAY TUNED! Photos will be posted on Facebook.com/studiopausebysush, and on Instagram @studiopause

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