'Artie' The River Road Park Imagination Bus

When school classroom sizes keep getting larger, school budgets keep shrinking, and subjects like drama, music and art seem to be becoming things of the past—what is a budding 7-year-old artist to do?

One day, 1980-something, my family and I visited the "Book Mobile." It was a simple concept. Fill an old bus with books, travel from neighborhood to neighborhood, and give kids the opportunity to check out books to read. It prompted me to ask myself, "Why couldn't River Road Park & Recreation District use that same concept and apply it to art?" Take a bus, paint it brightly, retrofit it with tables and a sink, drive it from neighborhood to neighborhood and allow children the opportunity to create, imagine and enjoy art activities.

For years I pitched the concept. Everyone had the same reaction—"That's interesting, but how would you do that? Who would paint it? Who would do the work to retrofit it? Who would maintain it? What would we do with it? Do you really think kids would like it?"

Then in the summer of 2015, I was introduced to Hilary Darland, who with her husband, John, owns a company named Imagination International Inc. Imagination International had recently partnered with us for another project in which they sponsored a mural project with our summer camp program using the talents of one of their artists, Bayne Gardner. It was during that conversation that I let Hilary in on my dream to create an art bus. She said if I ever got a bus, I should give her a call and that she would help make my dream a reality.

Feeling inspired, I called our local transit company, Lane Transit District, to see if they could/would donate a bus for this project. I had made this call many times in the past with no luck. However, I was inspired, so I picked up the phone and made the call once more, and I received an almost immediate response that Lane Transit District was decommissioning a bus and was willing to donate it to the park district at no cost.

My next call was to Imagination International and without hesitation Hillary said, "Bring it over and let's get started!" Their artist painted a mural on the bus while Matt, their design whiz, changed over the interior. After that was complete, it was delivered back to River Road Park & Recreation District, where our maintenance team put in lighting and did all of the maintenance touches to make "Artie" come alive!

We were excited to get the word out to our local schools and community, so for a grand opening we invited all of our local schools to a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a tour of "Artie." We also took input from the schools for their ideas on to how to best utilize "Artie" and serve our community.

We are now determining what the future holds. One thing is certain, "Artie" will make his rounds and ensure that kids will have time to create, envision and enjoy art on many levels. I hope that "Artie" will serve our community in the same way as the beloved Book Mobile, and bring joy and inspiration to children today and well into the future.



Dale Weigandt is superintendent of the River Road Park & Recreation District in Eugene, Ore. For more information, visit www.rrpark.org.