ruminations on a series of unrelated events
As you might have noticed from my various posts, the last few weeks have been a whirlwind of long days of grant writing, art installing, art making, app development, and film shooting, not mention full-time teaching. For a guy who is normally quite busy, these past few weeks have been exceptionally so. It was nice to take a break and bring the Cool Bus over to the Cottage Home Block Party last night. Our Cottage Home neighborhood is such a great place to live and the block party is always a wonderful night. As usual it was a lot of fun. And since I was gone on a bike tour most of the summer (http://grannygear.tumblr.com), I hadn’t done much with the bus for a while, so it was good for me to get it out in the world again.
So “What is the story behind the Cool Bus?” you ask. Well for the last few years there has been a grant program in Indianapolis called 5×5 in which 5 finalists for the grant are invited to present 5 slides and talk for 5 minutes. Judges and the audience pick the winner that very night and the winner walks away with $10,000. So a group of us, most of whom were involved in the creation of The Cottage Home Micro-library in my neighborhood the year before, got a crazy idea to put together a proposal to buy a school bus and retrofit it into a mobile literary arts center. This cool bus would take donated books and redistribute them to kids in under-served neighborhoods and have various reading and writing programs geared to elementary and middle school kids.
Well it so happens we won that grant, (the second grant of 5 that inaugural year. The grant program is now in its third and final cycle… wait shouldn’t it go for 5 years?) The grant stipulated that your project had to be completed by the next grant in the cycle which was 77 days later. So 77 days to find, buy, and retrofit a bus. Ah, that is nuts. Had we lost our minds? So it actually didn’t take long to locate the only used 3/4 length school bus for sale in the entire state. Luckily there was one. Luckily it was only over by Fort Wayne. And it didn’t take long to realize that the bus couldn’t go faster than 30 mph. In fact it only took the drive back to Indy. So after some repairs, which the seller paid the bulk of thankfully, we were up to our elbows in bus guts every spare moment for the next 11 weeks. I’ll spare you the blow-by-blow description of the 77 days of bus bliss, but will say that the week spent trying to remove those bus seats will go down in my memory as misery. Did I say misery? I meant rusty bolt fun. Thankfully in this medium-sized, quasi-off-the-map city of ours you can find a place to park and retrofit a bus indoors for free for months, at least we could. The bus was stored in an industrial building in the near eastside. I should say that we were squatting the bus in the industrial building where I have a studio. And luckily for us the building managers just looked the other way and the bank that owns the building apparently cared even less. We remarked to ourselves on numerous occasions how lucky we were that we weren’t doing this in Chicago. A free place to gut and redo the bus actually made all the difference in getting this done on budget. Seventy-seven days flew by and we completed the bus two days before the deadline. The next grant was held downtown on Maryland street and the bus was there in all its graffiti art glory. A video was made about our nutty journey:
A cool time lapse of the bus painting
Anyway, Word On The Street, which recently was awarded it’s tax exempt 501c3 status, is the parent organization for the Cool Bus. When we are not just slammed busy with our normal, full-time-job lives, we do indeed like to take the bus out to share books or for fun events and other occasions like the Cottage Home Block Party.