Several weeks ago, I used this space to talk about a Foundation East project in the eastside neighborhood of Irvington that has local visual artists painting traffic boxes to help beautify and transform street corners. Well, my friends at Foundation East are at it again, but this time with an initiative that has people on the move.
The brainchild of several eastside residents, the Magic #8 Bus initiative was birthed when neighbors regularly ran into each other at downtown activities and wondered if there wasn't a better way than driving separately. The project is a partnership between IndyGo, Irvington Development Organization (IDO) and Foundation East. It's designed to encourage more people to use the IndyGo bus service and positively impact the perceptions and attitudes some have about riding public transporation.
The Magic #8 Bus is named after the East Washington street bus route 8. The Magic #8 involves a series of organized, (mostly) family-friendly neighborhood outings to downtown cultural arts and sporting events. It's really pretty simple, people select an event, meet at one of the bus stops along the East Washington Street route and share a ride -- saving on gas and parking, while doing their part to cut greenhouse emissions, and best of all, making new friends and enjoying each other's company along the ride. Several trips are in the works, including an Indianapolis Indians Game, First Friday Art Tour, a Rhythm Discovery Center tour and St. Patrick's Day at the Golden Ace on East Washington Street (grown-ups only for this one).
You ask, what is the art component in all this? As part of The Magic #8 Bus initiative, Foundation East will commission a photographer to shoot each of the trips, with the resulting body of work organized into an art exhibit to be displayed during an IDADA First Friday Art Tour venue. The photo exhibit will not only become one of the Magic #8 Bus destinations, but will help facilitate a panel discussion featuring event organizers, bus riders and the general public. The hope is that the images will foster dialogue and inform and educate reluctant bus riders about IndyGo's service. By replacing an abstract concept with an image that captures the actual experience, riding the bus will become a viable option.
This isn't the first time IndyGo has stepped outside the box and forged a cultural partnership to engage riders. In 2006, they created the yearlong public art project, Shared Spaces/Shared Voices; hiring local poets to read their poetry aloud while riding the bus. Then there's Moving Forward, a program created by the Indianapolis Cultural Trail: A Legacy of Gene and Marilyn Glick that brought a series of custom-designed bus shelters, which showcase original poetry by published Indiana writers. The shelters are located along the Indianapolis Cultural Trail and combine cover with culture to make one's wait for the bus more palatable. And in May of 2013, the same folks hired local graffiti artists, FAB (Fantastic Aerosol Brothers) Crew to tag one of their buses to promote the completion of the Cultural Trail.
It looks like a pattern is emerging here. Let's hope people take advantage of these overtures and put their car keys in their pockets and sit back and enjoy the ride.