The Blue Bus Project: Interview with Artist Annalisa Iadicicco

The Blue Bus Project
The Blue Bus Project is an art exhibition that moves. A literal blue bus, the vehicle promotes and encourages dialogue for posiitve change via the arts.

The Blue Bus Project is an art exhibition that moves. A literal blue bus, the vehicle promotes and encourages dialogue for social, artistic and political change by way of performance, visual arts and interdisciplinary workshops that are taken on the road to various neighborhoods. The Blue Bus Project is a platform for artists and community members to contribute to their community while enhancing its beauty and cultural identity. The Blue Bus Project frequently partners with educational institutions, local art organizations, city agencies, and individual artists. It brings joy, cultivates creativity, and serves as a bridge to connect people with their community.

Founded by mixed-media artist Annalisa Iadicicco “The Blue Bus Project” was established to showcase how repurposed materials can be used to create artistic masterpieces. Annalisa’s pieces incorporate reclaimed objects and materials such as corrugated metal, found wood, rusty nails and car bumpers into enchanting yet powerful forms of artistic expression. On July 14, 2019, the bus will be on view at the Upcycle Junction Market in Flatbush, Brooklyn.

Annalisa recently discussed The Blue Bus Project and more via an exclusive interview.

The Blue Bus Project
The Blue Bus Project promotes social change and community growth through the arts.

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you initially get interested in the arts and why did you gravitate towards found objects?

Annalisa Iadicicco (AI): My first ART attack happened when I decided to visit my childhood hometown in Naples, Italy, after 20 years of absence. I needed to go and smell the grass, lie in the hay, wake up to a rooster crowing and walk barefoot while feeding the pigs and the chickens. When I got back to NY after embracing this emotional “back to the roots” trip, I was walking home one day and I found a pile of rusted corrugated metal pieces by the curb…the same corrugated metal pieces used in the countryside to build a barn or a sty. So, I picked them up and I brought it to my studio where I started playing with it until I decided to mount on it the photographs that I took during my trip creating an emotional environment for the images.

Since then I ‘ve fallen in love and collecting objects such as rusty nails, corrugated metal, wood, car bumpers in my walks around the city. That’s how “found objects” became my creative elements.

MM: How did you initially think up the concept for The Blue Bus and what was the process of making your vision a reality?

AI: It was a combination of personal quests and social injustices that brought me behind the wheels of The Blue Bus Project! I realized one day while attending an anti-gun violence march on the Brooklyn Bridge that protests are effective if you go back home and continue the work. So, when I went back to my studio, I realized: Well I’m not really an activist but what can I do to make a change in the world, how can I help? The answer was around me; art was my tool to bring change. So, I decided that I wanted to create a movement of artists…a small idea, right? Let’s stop with this individualism and let’s get together, I thought!

At the time I was working on a stop gun violence installation called “2nd Amendment” (now installed on the side of the bus, just like the yellow school bus stop sign but with a powerful message) and a bus came to mind as a vehicle for change. The bus represents children, it’s the children that go to school excited to learn new things. It represents hope. The blue bus is to me an interpretation of a youth who is fed up, exhausted, tired, frustrated and no longer willing to accept his/her surroundings and wants to use a powerful weapon “ART” to generate awareness and promote solution to personal hardship and issues or conflicts in his community.

And while all this was brewing in my mind, one day I found this blue bus parked few blocks from my house. This was the biggest “found object” I have collected from the streets! With the help of a friend, some drama, and the support of another dear friend, I was able to purchase it and put it on the road. And since then I have been driving to many communities around the NY bringing free participatory art to people.

The Blue Bus Project
The Blue Bus Project travels around to many neighborhoods in New York City and thereabouts.

MM: How many neighborhoods do you visit and do you do this all year round?

AI: Since its inception in 2016, TBBP has visited various neighborhoods like Harlem, The Bronx, Governor’s Island, Chelsea, Lower East Side, Jamaica Queens, Far Rockaway, Astoria, Long Island City and Greenpoint. The programs run from May until December.

MM: How long have you been doing this now and how has the program expanded since its implementation?

AI: I have been doing it since 2016. I started with a small exhibition in Long Island City for the LIC Arts Open Festival and on Governor’s Island for the FIGMENT’s Festival and since then I’ve been driving with on board different artists into various communities in NYC. The program is growing every year. The goal is to bring more people on board and to connect with different communities and, most of all, it is to create a long-lasting partnership with the organizations and communities we are connecting with. And in part this is happening, this year we have collaborated for the second year in a row with Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement and AHRC thanks to grants we received from the Queens Council on the Arts and Citizen Committees for NYC.

MM: Do you include other artist’s work on the bus as well and, if so, what is the submission process like?

AI: Yes! The blue bus is a platform for artists and communities to merge, interact, explore and stimulate discussion that lead to action and social change. Everyone is welcome to share and submit their ideas if they feel close to the mission of The Blue Bus Project. Submissions can be sent at thebluebusproject(at)gmail(dot)com

MM: What sorts of programs do you run through the bus?

AI: The programs range from interdisciplinary workshops for the youth and adults, music and dance performance, video/sound installations, art exhibitions, to collection and distribution of food and clothing for the needy.

MM: You collaborate with a number of organizations, so which have been some of the most memorable partnerships?

AI: Yes, we collaborated with various organizations and with each one of them we shared beautiful moments and created meaningful partnerships. One of the most memorable has been AHRC. AHRC is a family governed organization committed to finding ways for people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities to build full lives as defined by each person and supported by dedicated families, staff and community partners. We are actually finishing our second collaboration with AHRC this month.

On this project, I partnered with interdisciplinary artist Sara Galassini and musician Ivan Dalia.  We created a series of workshops using sound exploration of different materials and objects like plastic bags, paper, hangers, pots and pans as well as voice and rhythm activates to contribute to the co-creation, recording and designing of an LP. We transformed the bus into “The Blue Bus Project RECORDS” where we recorded live our participants. Through these workshops we use various interdisciplinary activities to give our participants and the staff an alternative way to freely express themselves, to connect and to learn about each either in a deep and unique way.

MM: You are partaking in the Upcycle Junction Market on July 14th, so how did you hear about that role and what part will you play in it?

AI: I heard about the Upcycle Market through Omar Olivera, Artist and Education Associate at Materials for the Arts. He introduced me to Yasmin Gur the creative director of the Market and I soon fell in love with her work so I decided to participate in the Upcycle Junction Market and support her mission to bring Art in public spaces. Art in public spaces is very important. It enriches people’s lives, it brings people together, and it’s a great opportunity for people to meet and interact with the artist and learn about the process behind the artwork. The bus will be transformed into a Creative SHOP and Gallery Space. I’ll be showing some of my work and I’m inviting other artists to join me!

MM: How do you hope The Blue Bus Project evolves in the future?

The Blue Bus Project
The Blue Bus Project will be at the Upcycle Junction Market in Flatbush, Brooklyn, on July 14.

AI: In the future I hope to see various communities purchasing the rights of the mobile art bus for their communities…. I see multiple blue busses driving around NY, one for each community.

MM: Is there anything else that you would like to mention?

AI: I’m running a GoFundMe campaign and I’m really close to reaching my goal. I would like to share the link and also have an opportunity to thank all the amazing people that supported me by donating to the campaign. I already started fixing the bus, but I need a little bit more help to be able to complete the mission!

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To learn more about The Blue Bus Project, please check their GoFundMe, official website, and Annalisa’s website.