December 20, 2010
Project’s AIM is to bring art to the streets
by Tanya J. Tyler
Lexington, KY – Thanks to the efforts of a local nonprofit organization, boring bus shelters will soon be a thing of the past in Lexington. LexTran riders are already enjoying four artful and art-filled shelters in various locations around the city.
The shelters are the projects of Art in Motion (AIM), the brainchild of Yvette Hurt. Hurt started Art in Motion in 2005. She had developed a passion for mass transit while traveling and living in Europe and larger U.S. cities, and she was distressed that Lexington’s only public transit system was not as well utilized. She researched the subject and learned that building amenities such as shelters and incorporating art in them often increases a transit system’s ridership.
There was a domino effect as well: Increased ridership makes a transit system more financially viable, allowing it to add routes and stops and become more efficient. A more efficient, engaging transit system almost always attracts “choice” riders — people who have cars but who choose instead to use public transportation, precisely because of its efficiency and attractiveness. Removing these riders’ cars from the roads reduces traffic congestion and carbon emissions, thus improving an area’s quality of life. Passengers, transit system, artists and the city all reap substantial benefits.
“This idea seemed so sensible and so connected to sustainability and increased quality of life that I embarked on a volunteer effort to make it happen here in Lexington,” said Hurt, whose background is in environmental quality and public health policy.
A year before Hurt started AIM, a tax referendum passed that gave LexTran a stable source of local funding. The company was able to expand its system and conduct long-range planning. Hurt believed that planning needed to include art shelters, so she crafted a proposal, recruited other volunteers to form a board of directors and incorporated AIM in 2006.
AIM’s mission is “to make Lexington a more vibrant, livable city through the fusion of public art, public transit and public spaces,” according to its web site (www.art-in-motion.us). Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government councilmembers, neighborhood associations, the local architectural and arts communities, the University of Kentucky, local businesses and stakeholder groups ensure the project has public input. LexTran has provided matching funds and organizational support for each shelter project.
“It’s been an outstanding relationship so far,” said Rocky Burke, general manager of LexTran. “When Yvette came to me with the Art in Motion idea, I was very excited about it. When you think of bus shelters and your bus system, it can be boring stuff sometimes. But all the shelters that we put up (through AIM) are very functional.”
Hurt had sought and obtained a grant from the LFUCG Council Corridors Committee to develop a pilot art shelter project on Versailles Road. Deciding on the location of a shelter encompasses a number of factors: Are there enough boardings there? (The optimum daily ridership goal is 25.) Will enough people use the shelter to make building it worthwhile? Is there enough room in the right-of-way to locate the shelter? Is there access for wheelchairs and visibility for the bus driver?
When all these questions were answered satisfactorily, work began on Lexington’s first art shelter. “Bottle Stop” was dedicated in January 2009. It was designed by Aaron Scales and Jim McKay; Ale-8-One, the historic Winchester soft-drink company, donated the vintage bottles incorporated into the shelter.
Another shelter is on the corner of East Third Street and Elm Tree Lane, across from the recently revitalized Lyric Theatre. LFUCG councilmember Andrea James was instrumental in getting the “East End Artstop” funded and built. Artist Garry Bibbs created the sculpture “Lyrical Movement” in tribute to the theater. The shelter was designed by EOP Architects.
A third shelter is located at Newtown Pike across from the health department. “Bluegrass” was also designed by EOP Architects, which donated construction oversight work as well. The stainless steel tubes that enhance the structure were fabricated by Iron Horse Forge.
“Gardenstop,” a fourth shelter, was created at the request of John and Claudia Michler and the Aylesford Neighborhood Association. UK’s Sustainability Program helped develop a design contest for it. Prajna Design and Construction built the shelter, which features living plants and recycled/reclaimed wood.
Three more shelters are in the planning stages under a $150,000 Congestion Mitigation Air Quality grant. Calls for proposals will be released at the beginning of the year. The shelters will be located on Mentelle Avenue, Leestown Road and Southland Drive.
Sanford Levy owns part of the strip mall on Southland Drive in which Good Foods Market and Café is located. He donated land for the shelter that will be built in front of the shopping center.
“The Southland Association had successfully secured bus service to the area about a year ago, and I thought this might be a good project,” Levy said. “Good Foods was on board immediately. We’re trying to see if we can afford to have solar lighting and some other bells and whistles on the shelter. I’m very, very pleased with it.”
The public response to the shelters has generally been positive.
“We’ve gotten good feedback from the average people out there,” Hurt said. “They love it and want to see more of it.”
“I’m really happy about all the different things these shelters accomplish,” said LFUCG senior city planner and AIM board member Joseph David, who helps choose shelter locations, obtain permits and find transportation grant funds. “They’re much more than bus shelters; they’re art galleries. I hope the efforts of Art in Motion will be a living legacy for this town.”
LexTran insures and maintains the shelters and is committed to adding more in the future through its partnership with AIM.
“We’re trying very hard to get choice riders to ride, and sometimes if you do things like this, it gets their attention and they know and understand we’re trying to be something a little bit different,” Burke said. “This is a very unique program, and I’ll certainly do everything I can to keep it going forward.”
Article can be found in Business Lexington’s online edition at http://www.bizlex.com/Articles-c-2010-12-20-96439.113117-Gimme-Shelter.html