Outlined in chalk along a strip of sidewalk on Newbury and Dartmouth Street, it read ARTBUS (just like that, in a classic yellow). The approach whimisical and the aesthetic minimalist, the chalked declaration's purpose was actually informative. This is where on the first Saturday (although this was the second) of every month (not counting this past summer) from 12-4, a "bus" would shuttle art enthusiasts from Newbury galleries to its South End brethren. The service is a Boston Art Dealers Association (BADA) initiative, and to get a coveted ticket to the Art Bus, one must procure it from BADA-approved gallery (which includes some of the galleries between Back Bay and South End). A green van pulled up with signage that matched the letterhead of the tickets, reading "The Art Bus," in lime. Steve, a driver with "Above All Transportation," stepped out and opened the door for me, and only me. I asked how many Art Bus goers he had driven. He said me, and only me. To be fair, it was his first trip on the Art Bus too. Steve dropped me off--two blocks away from where the South End galleries are. Later he would pick me up from the direct spot, yelling to me as I approached, "This is where I was supposed to be!" Making my way around the galleries spread out across 450-460 Harrison Avenue, I chose the first one I saw to walk into: Anthony Greaney Gallery. Woodwork hung and sat around a white room as instructional tips for wood art from a television played at the far end. Mr. Greaney sat near the entrance with fellow artist David Kelley. When I mentioned I came off the Art Bus, he looked confused. Getting into the topic of the hopes, intentions, future of the art shuttle service, Greaney and Kelley exchanged looks, words, attempting to provide an adequate response. Greaney starts, "If [the Art Bus] could work, it would be an affirmation of the South End's," he paused, "partnership," Kelley offered, "yes, partnership," Greaney continued, "with the Newbury galleries." I walked into Carroll and Sons, and met Carroll himself, Joseph, who knew nothing of the Art Bus, never handed out tickets, never met any patrons who spoke of it. "How many people have you met off the Art Bus?" I asked, this time to Arlette Kayafas of Gallery Kayafas near the end of the strip of Harrison Avenue galleries. "You're my first one," she replied. When I got back to Newbury, I went to the source of the idea, Joanna Fink, of Alpha Gallery, who was inspired by an art dealer trip to Miami, where shuttle service between galleries was provided. The beginnings of the Art Bus were marred by the faulty practices of the first driver they hired, "a one-man show who didn't show," Steve offered. "It was bad," Fink remarked, leaving the description brief as survivors of trauma generally do. Fink was hopeful, offering that several stood waiting before the first run even began. What bus these passengers actually rode is another matter, as neither Steve nor I managed to see them. But in any case, it's hard to criticize the Art Bus. As everyone offered, nearly verbatim, from Ms. Kayafas to Steve: "The idea is brilliant."
The next Art Bus will be making rounds November 6th and adding a spot that day at 30 Ipswich Street, Boston, for their partnership with Fenway Open Studios.