The Bus of Many Things
I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up in a semi rural environment we had occasional visits from mobile services. Sometimes it would be a Co-Op food van, sometimes a library. But it was the Artbus that captured my imagination and generated so many sparks of excitement and creativity. It was a basic thing, but the impact has never left me. It’s one of the reasons I’m an artist now, and it’s why we, as the Test Valley Arts Foundation, have bought our own ex-library bus. We are currently re-homing and refitting it, transforming it into a Bus of Many Things to serve, entertain, and inspire the communities of the Test Valley.
Due to the fluid and moveable nature of this concept, the possibilities are virtually endless. Imagine the bus parked at a local village hall so that residents are able to come and visit either to take part in workshops, view exhibitions or to simply watch artists working.
The bus itself will have a limited space for only a few people, but with our four-season ‘fold-out’ space, a ready made studio will be able to hold up to 30 people at a time. In other words, ‘class-sized’ . Session lengths will vary from an entire day, to short ‘tasters’, allowing a whole school-year group to gain access to the bus experience in one day.
The Bus of Many Things is exactly what its name suggests. Because it’s the sort of tool that can be adapted to any purpose, at this stage we can only provide an estimate of uses. Our own artists have many specialisms, but the real strength of the bus is it’s ability to be used by the wider creative community in the Test Valley.
Nevertheless, to give you a clearer idea of the breadth of possibilities, we expect to be able to offer the following:
- photographic darkroom
- mobile cinema
- recording stories/ archiving local history
- drawing workshops
- craft based workshops
- writing and poetry workshops
- corporate training
- pop-up gallery
Naturally we feel that this is a very exciting endeavour, and will be able to to reach out to all those hard to-get-to places in the Test Valley, just as much as the busy,more urban places. Whether you run an arts group, a care home, a school, a respite centre, a community group or business, we think that the Bus of Many Things will have something to offer you! It has everything. Even a sink !
The bus has two main aims:
1. exist as an art project in its own right
2. work as a service provider.
The bus will be a curated and managed social archive project to work directly with the public. This will be an open-ended project managed specifically by CAS. It will have its own aims, objectives, methods and evaluative processes. Importantly, this will provide a continuous purpose and identity for the bus while it operates under the guise of multiple users. The creation of a Social History archive is partly as a continuation of the work begun during the Encounters project, and partly as a response to public requests, and will be an ongoing public-art project.
As an art project it must have its own self-contained raison d’etre, driven by a critical methodology, in a context that displays:
- community cohesion
- a research-led structure
- participatory content
- a response to the community
- a response to the TVBC public art strategy
- an experimental approach
The bus will create its own archive to be stored and upon occasion displayed inside the bus, harking back to its library origins. A recording desk will be built at the back of the bus. This fully accessible facility will allow people to leave their stories with the bus. They will be able to record verbal anecdotes, and scan photos, clippings and objects.
There is, according to the curator of Andover Museum, a significant gap in recent and contemporary social history. This ongoing curated project will serve its artistic and documentary purposes as well as that of the museums. Like the response to the Andover footage during the Encounters project, the public were overwhelmingly engaged with the opportunity to share their stories, passions and knowledge.
The bus will also deliver services to the community. This is its staple function. It will provide a wide range of classes and activities. It will be used by the team of CAS artists, as well as being bookable through Be Wiser by any creative group or individual in the community.
The two points are not mutually exclusive, and will support and inform each other.
Be Wiser is a major supporter of TVAF and are providing two of their graduate trainees on an ongoing basis to develop creative projects in the Test Valley. This relationship will allow the Be Wiser staff to bring their financial, logistical and sales skills to bear and reach the place that artist may not be able to. Provide opportunity for Be Wiser staff to operate independently and have a large stake in the creative design of the BMT logistics.