Of Buses and Art

art exhibit aims to rethink local mass transit

Scott Morfitt, photos by Andrea Paulseth

Artist Elizabeth Stingl’s Transportation, Movement, Destination exhibition at the Goat Coffee House this month takes an artsy angle on transportation.
Artist Elizabeth Stingl’s Transportation, Movement, Destination exhibition at the Goat Coffee House this month takes an artsy angle on transportation.

If you are like me, when you think of mass transit and art the first things that pop in your head are a song by Kris Kross (which always necessitates a YouTube pit stop) and the cool new murals on the sides of Eau Claire Transit buses.

Now, a new art exhibit called Transportation, Movement, Destination is going to push how you think about these two things further, and possibly help all of us rethink how we use our extensive mass transit system in the Chippewa Valley.

The show was conceived by Eau Claire jeweler Elizabeth Stingl and was inspired by her study-abroad experience in Ireland where she realized how easy it can be to use mass transit. “I was very thankful for the easy-to-use bus system,” Stingl says. “I was able to go grocery shopping or visit a neighboring town on a weekend all on a student budget. The buses ran often so I could run errands between classes and had many options on when and where I could go when I wanted to explore other cities in Ireland.”

“Working to increase the scope of the [transit] system to respond to the community’s transportation needs in an environmentally friendly way drives my art.” – artist Elizabeth Stingl

After she returned, Stingl says she missed the way mass transit was so integral to her life in Ireland, where she was able to travel between cities without having to own a car. Multi-municipality mass transit always seems to have vocal public support, though that support never travels down to the wallet when it comes time to actually build it.

When asked about this, Stingl says, “When considering a public transportation system, if not many take advantage of it, the funding does not come, the bus stays inconvenient, and a bad cycle is created. However, if people break this cycle, travel around town in an environmentally friendly bus, creating demand, funding is more likely to come and the system becomes more convenient and extensive.”

Jewelry is Stingl’s medium, and it is central to this show. “Using copper discs and a colorful wire I have created pendants that mapped out the different bus routes,” she says. “Just as the transit map lays out the routes in different colors so do my pendants. Each pendant is dedicated to a different line and corresponds to the color on the map. Next to each piece at the show there will be a brief list referencing the different stops the bus visits along each route.”

The show will run all of July at The Goat Coffee House, 408 Water St., and on July 20 Eau Claire Transit will bring one of its buses to the lot next door, creating a pop-up park. (The inside panels of the bus will feature works from another exhibit, Art on the Bus: Green Transportation Edition.) To raise funds for the show, Stingl is using the Eau Claire Regional Arts Center’s power2give.org website, which she hopes will make this community-driven project a success. Stingl says that proceeds from the show will go to Chippewa Valley Transit Alliance, a nonprofit group that advocates for alternative modes of transportation.

Alliance member and public transit advocate Jeremy Gragert says, “I am very excited about the support and creative awareness that Liz is bringing to our local transit system, and the way she is adding to the cultural relevance of public transportation in our community.”

Considering her artwork and collaboration with public transit boosters, it is obvious that mass transit is important to Stingl.  She believes that public transportation can become relevant in all our lives. “I know that there are others in our community struggling with similar transportation challenges; life stresses that could be eased with more expansive bus routes,” she says. “Working to increase the scope of the system to respond to the community’s transportation needs in an environmentally friendly way drives my art.”

Artist Elizabeth Stingl’s exhibit Transportation, Movement, Destination will be on display at The Goat Coffee House, 408 Water St., during normal business hours throughout July. A reception on 2:30-6:30pm Saturday, July 20, also will include a city bus in the lot next door.

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