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Local artist Janvika Shah creates bus shelter art as part of Art + Transit program


Janvika Shah's artwork decorates a bus shelter on South Road in Chapel Hill.

Janvika Shah has been creating art since she was a toddler drawing on walls. Her art career began in art classes in grade school, which sparked a longtime interest in visual art.

“Art has always been a hobby of mine and something that I've dedicated time to," Shah said.

She said she has explored many mediums, but that she enjoys illustration most of all because of the detail she can add.

To celebrate Women’s History Month, Chapel Hill Community Arts & Culture selected Shah to create a piece of art for a bus shelter on South Road on UNC’s campus. 

Shah said she wanted to create a piece of art that represents women's empowerment rooted in equity. 

“So, I wanted to lift up some of the more marginalized identities that don't really get shown in public spaces,” Shah said.

She said she designed each panel of her illustration to depict a different variety of women. The first panel represents softness, the second panel represents strength and the third panel represents resilience.

The last panel represents wisdom and intuition, she said, and included an Indigenous identity. Shah said that she wanted to acknowledge and pay homage to the original inhabitants and anyone with Native descendants. 

The end result was a high-resolution digital image that a printer could install on the bus shelter. Shah said she then created an Instagram post showcasing her work.

“I don't really spend too much time promoting my art, but that received probably the most attention of any of my posts — highest engagement and just a resounding love from my community and friends,” Shah said.

Since 2018, Chapel Hill Community Arts & Culture has had a partnership with Chapel Hill Transit called Art + Transit. This year, the partnership has focused on themed works of art that highlight various initiatives within the community.

Melissa Bartoletta, the marketing and communications coordinator for Chapel Hill Community Arts & Culture, said she receives a lot of positive feedback from the community about the different works of art around town.

She also said artists have creative discretion in creating their pieces. She said Shah was given a brief about logistics and what the organization was looking for.

The Art + Transit program uses an open call system to recruit Triangle-based artists to design art each year. Shah was selected by the organization from a database of artists who have applied for their open calls over the years, Bartoletta said.

“We thought it could fit well on a bus shelter, and we also believe that her intention into the art that she creates would fit really well with this project,” Bartoletta said. 

She also said Shah was chosen because Chapel Hill Community Arts & Culture wanted to highlight a female artist who would uplift, empower and celebrate women.

Other Art + Transit shelters, art buses and ceiling vinyls focus on themes like civil rights, climate change and racial injustice.

Emily Powell, the community outreach manager for Chapel Hill Transit, said buses and bus shelters are a blank canvas for the community.

“The best thing about that is that we are a moving canvas, so not only do you have the people on the bus, but as the bus goes around town, it's a great way to share art and bring it to people,” Powell said. 


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