Hybrid Artwork

new hybrid buses to get their looks from local artists

Heidi Kraemer

Two early sketches show the natural, sometimes playful art that could adorn Eau Claire’s buses.
Early sketches show the natural, sometimes playful art that may adorn Eau Claire’s buses.

The people on the bus shout “Go Green! Go Green!” all around the town. Eau Claire is about to get a bit greener with the arrival of three brand new hybrid buses due to arrive in mid-2013. According to Eau Claire’s 2012 budget book, buses that are 10 years old or older are eligible for replacement funding from the Federal Transit Administration.  This means Eau Claire gets an 80% discount on brand new buses built to be more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly.

Would you hug a bus…if it had trees on it? These buses are not only going to promote eco friendly living, they are going to celebrate the natural beauty of Eau Claire with decorated exteriors designed by three art students from the UW-Eau Claire. The Hybrid Bus Design Project is organized by the University’s Art & Design Department.

The University’s Office of Research and Sponsored Programs has provided funding for this artistic adventure. Three lucky students were chosen to participate based on their outstanding portfolios and level of interest in the project. Each student comes from a different area of the art department: Jenny Johns, Bachelor of Fine Arts in graphic design; Aly Wheeler, Bachelor of Arts in photography; and Luke Benson, Bachelor of Fine Arts in illustration are putting their heads together with three Art & Design professors Ned Gannon, Sooyum Im, and Jyl Kelley to come up with designs for our new buses.

“I’m excited that the community of Eau Claire is so interested and supportive of the arts that they are willing to take up advertising space on buses and give it to artists.”
– artist Jenny Johns

The teams will also be working with the Watershed Institute for Collaborative Environment Studies and the City of Eau Claire Transit. Since this project is a “go-green” initiative, the groups decided that natural cycles should be incorporated into the theme of each bus. The themes for each respective bus are the atmosphere, the biosphere, and the hydrosphere. Each bus will be snatching a different wardrobe right out of the natural scenery of Eau Claire. To make this possible, the three artists are each bringing their own expertise to the project.

Jenny Johns’ expertise is graphic design. Her interest in sustainability and desire to display her artwork on a large scale for such an important cause lead her to apply for this project.

“I’m excited that the community of Eau Claire is so interested and supportive of the arts that they are willing to take up advertising space on buses and give it to artists,” Jenny said.

She finds her inspiration in Eau Claire’s natural beauty and is enjoying incorporating it in her designs. She has loved art since she was a little girl and plans on finding a graphic design job with a creative design or advertising firm in Minneapolis after she graduates.

Aly Wheeler brings photography experience to the project. She is learning a lot throughout this project, particularly about mixing media through photography. After the trio of students design shapes of grass or trees on a computer, Aly fills in these shapes with her photography of natural textures, such as grass, leaves, or bark. Inspired by her mother, who is an artist, Aly has loved art since she was small. She feels this project is awesome exposure for the art department.

“People will see our art moving around the city and understand the value in art; that is can accomplish more than entertain people for a few minutes.”

Luke Benson’s focus in the project is illustration. His role has been creating fun characters to place into these bus worlds. His style is colorful and goofy, giving the buses a playful feel. Luke was interested in getting involved in this project because having grown up in Eau Claire, he has never seen an art project that moves like this before.

“I’m excited to create something fun to help represent Eau Claire’s natural beauty and emphasize healthy living through artwork,” he explained.

His father was an art teacher who inspired him to pursue art in college. Someday he hopes to illustrate books and work on independent projects through freelancing. But for now, he is very content to be illustrating buses.

The artful buses barreling down the streets of Eau Claire will remind residents that they are bringing life to our environment when they choose public transportation. Let’s be responsible caretakers of our planet and appreciate art. These talented students hope to have the designs finished by early March.

If you can’t bear to wait that long, check out their progress on their working blog at: http://uwechybridbusproject.wordpress.com. Who wouldn’t want to ride in forest populated by strange tree climbers and birds floating on the breeze?