CHAPEL HILL — The art on the bus goes round and round, up and down, all over town.
Look closer at the Mobile Mural, however, and you’ll find the colorful blocks and lines crisscrossing the Chapel Hill Transit bus aren’t random at all. Chapel Hill artist Mary Carter Taub drew her inspiration from bus route maps and key codes.
Taub said she considered several ideas after learning about the Downtown Art Project, a town-sponsored collection of temporary and performance art installations. She thought about displaying her work on bus shelters or parking lots and meters, but a bus seemed like the best way to reach the most people, she said.
“As an artist, public art is very appealing to me, because it is presented in the public arena, outside of the traditional museum and gallery network, allowing access to a broader audience,” Taub said.
The Mobile Mural, which cost roughly $2,200, will carry Chapel Hill Transit passengers on random routes through February 2014, said Steve Wright, the town’s public art coordinator.
The town committed $10,000 in public art money to the five-part Downtown Art Project, he said. It also had help from community partners, including Chapel Hill Public Arts, the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership and the Orange County Arts Commission, and the artists were encouraged to find additional sources of funding, he said.
The Downtown Art Program started in December with photography exhibits at the Frank Gallery. This spring, it includes storefront art and interactive performances.
“It brings public art projects downtown to enhance and enliven the downtown experience for visitors and residents,” Wright said.
Taub said the Mobile Mural is a little different from her other works, which have appeared nationally in museums and unconventional spaces, such as a moving truck and elevator.
Last year, she built a temporary installation at the Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh using thousands of feet of colorful tape and vinyl. This is the first time she vinyl-wrapped a three-dimensional object, or a bus, she said.
The work began with a hand-drawn model, which fabricators digitally translated and scaled to the bus’s dimensions. The colors were tweaked before Larger Than Life Inc. in Kentucky printed the image on large-format vinyl. It was applied to the bus using a blow torch.
“Art can be anywhere, anytime, any place,” Taub said. “Mobile Mural combines form and function by adding aesthetic distinctiveness to the practical need of a daily in-service city bus.”