Public Art on Public Busses

Aug 10, 2018


Artist Justice Dwight poses with his self-portrait on a Richmond bus.


When you think about public art you may think murals, statues or monuments. But Art180, a nonprofit in Richmond, has teamed up the Greater Richmond Transit Company to put a creative spin on public art.  


Board any bus in Richmond between now and September and you’ll get to see local art on display, 20 pieces from 20 different artists scattered throughout the fleet.

“So the painting that we’re looking at is a painting of me. And I’m wearing my headwrap,” Artist Justice Dwight points to his own self-portrait, hanging on the wall of the bus. He and fellow artist Jordan Hopkins collaborated on the piece.

Dwight describes his art as Afro-Pop. It features bright colors and bold black lines. His art has been displayed in galleries along the East Coast, but never on a bus before.

“It’s just such a new and fresh way to show art and to get yourself out there and to connect with your community,” Dwight says. “That’s why I really appreciate this.”

The project is sponsored by Art 180, a local nonprofit that uses art to connect with kids in challenging circumstances. As part of the group’s 20th anniversary they decided to honor twenty local artists who work with youth in their community.

This summer Dwight is teaching a free art class at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, where students are doing paintings inspired by music.

“I think the most important thing that I try to teach to the youth is that your art’s not perfect, my art’s not perfect. You shouldn’t beat yourself up about it being perfect because everybody’s art is different and art is all about perception,” Dwight says. “And so people are going to perceive your art differently. Someone might not like that. But someone else is going to love it. And it’s okay. It’s okay to just be honest and be yourself when it comes to your work.”

All summer long Richmonders will get the chance to be exposed to artwork of all styles. And because different busses in the GRTC fleet run different routes, there’s no predicting which piece of art where will wind up where.

“When you hop on and off the bus you’re going to see a new piece of art most likely and it will touch all parts of our transit system,” explains Carrie Rose Pace with the Greater Richmond Transit Company.

It’s not the first time art has been displayed on Richmond’s busses. As part of her thesis, a former VCU student opted to display her photography on the outside of a bus. There’s a long tradition nationwide of using public transportation to feature public art.

“GRTC provides a public service,” Rose Pace says.  “And we will welcome the public aboard. So why wouldn’t we use this as a space to welcome public contributions like art?”

Artwork from this summer’s project will be also exhibited in Richmond’s Jackson Ward neighborhood throughout August. Proceeds from any art sold during the exhibit will go to both the artists and to the nonprofit Art 180.