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Ashley Cornelius shares her poetry on the stage of Colorado College’s new Mobile Arts bus, during this month’s unveiling in conjunction with the First Friday Art Walk, at 116 E. Boulder Street in downtown Colorado Springs.

As people bounced around downtown Colorado Springs for a recent First Friday Art Walk, many stumbled upon a new addition to the monthly tradition. And it wasn’t found inside the walls of a gallery.

It was found on wheels.

The bus came with two murals on each side. The back formed a backdrop for a stage. And the hood was printed with these words: “Art is not neutral. It either upholds or disrupts the status quo, advancing or regressing justice.”

Soon after parking in a lot behind Wild Goose Meeting House, the on-wheels art project drew a crowd of people just for the spectacle. There was more than that, too. Paint workshops. Slam poetry and a call to write poetry on the spot. A performance from a dance group and a dance lesson. And this was just the launch of the bus, known as the Arts Mobile.

It’s the creation of Naomi Pueo Wood, an associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese at Colorado College, along with a team of students. After getting a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Wood wanted to get started right away by offering programs on campus and around Colorado Springs. But there was the pandemic.

“It came from having this funding,” she said. “And I didn’t want to waste a year of having this support doing things on Zoom.”

She was also missing live events, like dance performances and concerts. So she thought of a way to make all of that happen at the same time.

“I wanted to get people together appreciating different art forms in a COVID-safe way,” Wood said.

And so the bus was born. And so was Mobile Arts, described as a “robust program that seeks to provide multidisciplinary arts experiences at no cost to the public.”

Wood says the bus will host all kinds of pop-up-style community events, including dance classes and performances, site-specific short plays, film screenings and a mobile printing press.

The mobility helps set the program apart, as the bus can easily pop up at farmers markets, parks or outside the Pikes Peak Children’s Museum, for example.

Along with that, Wood hopes to give a platform to a variety of artists. “We want to showcase artwork that maybe wouldn’t make it in the traditional galleries,” Wood said.

And they want to show up in neighborhoods and places without traditional galleries.

“There’s a deeper core mission and vision of the program,” she said. “And that’s to have people get to know each other through artwork who wouldn’t normally connect with each other.”

That’s why the program will often host workshops and hands-on events.

The Arts Mobile will likely roll around Colorado and nearby states. And the inside of the bus will be renovated into more of a gallery space.

For now, though, the team driving the program will focus on First Friday events. And getting more and more people to stumble upon the bus.

“I hope people walk by and see the truck and are inspired to think, what is that about?” Wood said.

“What was the artist thinking? And they’re just inspired to use their imagination.”

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