City: COTA buses get Poetry in Motion

From the April 4, 2012 edition

Fifty-six years later, Rosa Parks’ stand on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus is still inspiring art. COTA riders need only look upward to find it.

The fleet’s buses are now miniature art galleries, displaying poetry-inspired pieces by Columbus youth who participate in arts programs sponsored by the Greater Columbus Arts Council.

The idea to put art and poetry in buses came up months ago when COTA was considering ways to celebrate the Columbus bicentennial and how to showcase a revived fleet.

“When we heard about this program involving local youth and a form of mobile art, we thought this was a great partnership,” said Beth Berkemer, COTA spokeswoman.

The arts council got in touch with the Poetry Society of America’s Poetry in Motion program — seen in public transportation in cities across the U.S. — which suggested six poems about the power of the individual. Poems by Langston Hughes, Walt Whitman and Carl Sandburg were among the suggestions.

The kids did the rest of the work, creating works of art based on a given poem.

Six pieces were chosen for display in COTA buses. Riders will find reproductions of the pieces — paired with phrases from the inspiring poem — above seats inside COTA buses.

“For the kids, it’s a great opportunity for their work to be seen by thousands of people,” GCAC spokeswoman Jami Goldstein said. “And when you combine language arts with visual arts, you increase the learning capabilities of a child.”

The young artists take part in out-of-school programs Art in the House, for young children, and Transit Arts, for teenagers. Both programs give creative young minds access to structured art activities.