The Latinx Pride bus hit the streets of Chapel Hill this month.
Designed by artist Georges Le Chevallier, the bus was born through a partnership between Chapel Hill Transit and Chapel Hill Community Arts & Culture.
Le Chevallier, the son of a Puerto Rican mother and a French father, grew up in Puerto Rico. He said he drew inspiration from brightly painted buses, called “chicken buses,” in Guatemala.
“I don't want to tell stories, I want to create feelings,” said Le Chevallier. “I try to stay away from figurative work because I think once you start with figurative work, you start including and excluding a lot of people. But if you deal with just words and colors and patterns, that's a way for anybody to read into the artwork.”
Le Chevallier said he hopes non-Latino residents will see the bus, learn the Spanish and English words and realize they probably know more Spanish than they think.
“I want them to learn acceptance,” he said. “Maybe that’s one way to humanize Latino immigrants.”
Chapel Hill Community Arts & Culture called for artist proposals for the Latinx bus in February.
Le Chevallier said he drew his concept for the bus in a crowded Starbucks. His life since then has changed in ways personally and globally, he said. Out of public art projects in Guatemala, Chile, France, Tanzania and the United States, Le Chevallier said this will be his most memorable.
The words ‘Familia,’ ‘Te quiero mami y papi’ and ‘Family,’ ‘I love you mom and dad’ adorn the bus. Le Chevallier said his mother and father passed away as he worked on this project, and he pays homage to them in its design.
"You bring into this work whatever you want and I think that's why it's so successful, because I'm leaving it up to you, the viewer, to take what you want," he said.
Steve Wright, public art coordinator for Chapel Hill Community Arts & Culture, said the Town began adding public art by locals to bus shelters in 2018. This is the first bus wrap to come out of the partnership between Chapel Hill Transit and Chapel Hill Community Arts & Culture, he said.
This arts-transit partnership also has another project in the works, said Brian Litchfield, Chapel Hill Transit director.
“We're in early conversations with the NAACP Youth Council for them to work with an artist of color to develop a bus wrap around their visions and thoughts related to racial and social justice,” Litchfield said.
He said depending on the economy and city resources come January, they will likely issue an artist call for more bus shelters.
Eliazar Posada, director of community engagement and advocacy at El Centro Hispano, said the bus fuses traditional and contemporary design, which reflects the Latinx community in Orange County. As for himself and a few colleagues, he said they like the design.
“Some of our more traditional folks aren’t too happy about it," Posada said. "But of course, everyone’s going to have different ideas of how to display a very diverse and very unique culture like the Latinx community."
He said he admires what the bus does for Latinx visibility. However, beyond visibility, Posada said he wants to ensure transit routes include predominantly Latinx, immigrant and low-income areas.
“Traditionally, a lot of public transit and travel has been very University-centered,” he said.
He said UNC’s transition to remote instruction this fall warrants a conversation with the community about shifting to meet their transit needs.
“It's not just about being visible, but doing the hard work behind the scenes to make sure that the entire system is equitable,” Posada said.
Litchfield said the University focus directly results from University-provided funding, even for some local routes.
“This is also a time when our resources are incredibly challenged," Litchfield said.
He said Chapel Hill Transit is aware of service needs — it’s a matter of finding funding to meet them.
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