Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Confluence of Art and Function in Roanoke

Chris McBride paints the bus stop sculpture at Patrick Henry High^

Chris thinks the school kids will swing on this part of the shelter. I agree^

Art students made this scene with tiles. Guess where their minds were?^

The City of Roanoke, in a noble effort, is pushing art toward its citizens and some of its effort is working. As with all art, some works, some doesn't--depending on the critic--but it's all worthwhile. One of the more interesting efforts coming from a department headed by Susan Jennings, who for years led the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge, are the two school bus stops under construction.

The one here is at Patrick Henry High School (explaining the colors) and will be dedicated Monday, Nov. 23 at 11:45 p.m. This is a school bus stop the likes of which I've never seen and I'm not sure how to feel about it. The artwork is certainly interesting, but is it functional? If you have a question about whether function is important, join the students waiting on a bus one rainy morning.

The roof of this structure, composed of a kind of plexiglass, spreads out like a fan, but there are no sides to break wind (so to speak) and the roof doesn't cover much space. But, hey, beauty often has its shortcomings.

This shelter is an effort led by Basset artist Ed Dolinger, working with Patrick Henry students and teacher Jennifer Fowler. Restoration expert Chris McBride and brick mason John Johnson also contributed significantly. John put together the marvelous tile scene (with heavy phallic overtones) made by the PH students.

I like the idea, the delivery and the look. But I'm not so sure it's going to do its first job: keeping students warm and dry as they wait for the bus.

1 comment:

  1. I attended the dedication yesterday morning, Dan, and came to the conclusion it fails as a bus shelter, though it makes an interesting public art endeavor. I tackled the problems with this in more depth at the RIDE Solutions blog, but the basic point is that an excellent opportunity was missed to create something that encouraged the use of public transportation.

    And a point of note, it's not exclusively a student bus stop, as it's on the Valley Metro route, though I imagine it would serve a large group of students. Had it been more functional, it could have served to draw folks from the vicinity there to wait for the bus in a comfortable, attractive, interesting place.