What could happen if a public transit agency invited a popular local artist into one of its busiest bus stations on a Monday and offered said artist the opportunity to paint the entire station in an array of colors? When I asked artist Ashley Mary to do that a couple months ago, I didn’t quite know the answer to that question, but I had a hunch that it would be really, really fun. For our customers, for residents in the Uptown neighborhood, for fans of Ashley Mary’s work and for visitors to the area, too.
And it was. On Monday, Oct. 22, I arrived first thing in the morning at Metro Transit’s Uptown Transit Station to begin laying drop cloths and placing painter’s tape inside the customer waiting area that would serve as Ashley’s canvas for the day. Ashley arrived not long after with a bubbly enthusiasm and several crates full of acrylic paints representing just about every color under the sun. It was clear the name we chose for this project, “Color Pop Bus Stop” was perfect as she painted bright yellow ovals along the back wall, neon pink stripes right in front surrounded by green squiggles, bright red leaf shapes over on the side and tangerine swirls and circles throughout.
From dawn until dusk, Ashley danced around the station and painted nonstop, only pausing occasionally to smile for a photo with a rider or fan. The reactions from those who visited the station throughout the day were priceless.
“I love that your work is going to be in my neighborhood,” said Zoe Hazlett, an Uptown resident and Ashley Mary fan who came by via skateboard to watch for several hours as the piece took shape.
“Today is my lucky day!” exclaimed one rider who stopped by in the afternoon for the celebration portion of the event, during which we handed out free ride coupons and hot chocolate.
Several people from the arts community came by and expressed appreciation for our showcasing a local artist in such a unique way. The project was also a natural draw for children. One mother waiting for the bus with her young son had to hightail it after him as she noticed he was running excitedly into the station to get a better view.
Color Pop Bus Stop is Ashley’s first public-facing mural, which is one of the aspects that initially attracted her to the project. It’s also her first piece that offers viewers a 360-degree experience, as the mural covers all four sides of the customer waiting area at the station.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better day,” said Ashley. “Sun was out, so many kind strangers and friends came by, the energy was so, so right.”
This is the third in a series of annual Metro Transit temporary public art installations I’ve led that have each had very colorful themes, which is one reason I specifically sought out Ashley Mary for this year’s project. You might remember last year’s “We Are Metro Transit” installation at Government Plaza Station or the “Yarn Bus” project from 2016. The idea behind each of these projects has been rooted in bringing happiness to our customers through colorful, fun, engaging and (of course) Instagram-worthy art brought to you by local artists.
The Color Pop Bus Stop installation will be in place at Uptown Transit Station through February of 2019, on the southbound side of Hennepin Avenue. Riders and visitors to the station are encouraged to take photos or videos of the mural and post them on social media using the hashtag #ColorPopBusStop for a chance to win prizes from Metro Transit and Ashley Mary. Fun tip: You can catch a great view of the installation from below if you’re on the Midtown Greenway bike path just west of Hennepin Avenue.
My hope for the Color Pop Bus Stop installation is that it will bring a little bit of joy into the lives of those who experience it, especially as we head into the grey, cold days of winter. Maybe it will spark a fun conversation between two customers waiting for their bus who wouldn’t have looked up from their phones otherwise. Maybe it will inspire someone to take the bus for the first time and experience their city in a new way. Maybe it will become a child’s favorite part of the day as they wait for the bus with mom or dad.
I know from hanging out at Color Pop Bus Stop all day Monday that so far, it’s on track to do its intended job.
“’Happiness’ is the one word I would use to describe this,” said one rider as he looked into the station with a smile on his face near the end of the installation Monday evening.
Column by Kathy Graul, Metro Transit Social Media Strategist