Austin students will decorate new CapMetro electric buses with artwork


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Students at Campbell Elementary School find out this week whether art they made will end up in the final design on two electric buses Capital Metro will have delivered this month.

Different grades at the school tackled different topics, including nature, central Texas locations, and self-portraits. A selection committee picked 20 pieces from dozens of entries.

CapMetro will turn the pieces into a custom wrap for its first two electric buses, the first step in a long-term goal of electrifying its entire fleet.

“This is a way to send the message that our future is important,” said Jackie Nirenberg, CapMetro’s community engagement manager. “The kids are our future.”

Students will find out the winners on Thursday.

Four of the projects that are being considered for the final bus design. (KXAN Photo/Chris Davis)

Kevin Abeyta, the art specialist at Campbell, doesn’t typically like art contests, because they focus too much on the product instead of the process. “But this one was different,” he said. “It celebrated the kids’ artwork while also bringing attention to climate change and sustainability.”

The entire school participated in the project, he said. Kindergarten and first grade students painted paper that second-through-fifth graders used to make their collages.

“They were more than ready,” Abeyta said. “Like, ‘Oh, paper, scissors, glue, let’s do this.'”

The contestants

Four students who created pieces — third-graders Brynn Mills and Maiko Rathnasingham, fourth-grader Anthony Lopez and fifth-grader McKenzie Leary — showed KXAN their final pieces up for consideration for the final product.

“I like art because you get to really recreate stuff,” Anthony said. Third and fourth grade classes picked locations around Austin to illustrate. His choice, the Thinkery, came from his joy of making arts and crafts at the interactive kids’ museum. “It’s a lot to learn there.”

Likewise, Maiko chose a location she’s familiar with. “We drive by the Frost Bank building often,” she said. One side of her design features the tower, and the other features Lady Bird Lake.

Like her classmates, she said she’s nervous about hearing the final results, but she’s hopeful. “It would be the first time I’ve won a contest, and I would see my artwork on a bus.”

McKenzie made a self-portrait out of the paper she had to work with. Abeyta taught her class about the portrait artist Kehinde Wiley to inspire them.

“I’ve never made, like, a portrait of someone or me,” McKenzie said. The process was both fun and hard, she said, and while there are things she’d change, she’s still happy with the final piece. Seeing it on the side of a bus would make her feel “famous.”

Brynn worked right up until her class’s deadline to finish her work, showing a scene from Zilker Park focused on the playgrounds and Zilker Zephyr train.

She’s nervous to hear if she’s one of the 20 students selected to have work displayed on the bus wrap, but it would make her “proud, because it’s kind of like showing the whole city that I did that.”

Citywide routes

Since CapMetro buses rotate routes, the entire city would see the two electric buses covered in the students’ art, Nirenberg said.

“This is a chance for them, probably their first chance, to have their artwork seen publicly in a really big way.”

CapMetro has eight more electric buses on order and expects them to arrive in the summer. Those probably won’t be covered in art, she added, the company likely opting for standard CapMetro branding instead.

But there’s no set duration for keep the wraps on the first two, and they’ll probably remain for a year or more.

The transit agency will officially unveil the electric buses with their new graphics in January.

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