BRONX, N.Y. — An old school bus that has been turned into a mobile museum will provide an innovative way for children here to experience art and to learn about such subjects as the environment, health and science.
Kids in the Bronx are "dramatically under-served" in exposure to the arts, according to Carla Precht, founding executive director of the forthcoming Bronx Children's Museum.
"A large portion of children in the Bronx have never even been to a museum, and there are only a few places in the Bronx for families to bring their children for arts and culture," Precht told SBF.
The permanent museum is slated to open in a historic, city-owned castle in a park near Yankee Stadium in 2013. In the meantime, the repurposed bus will bring art and hands-on educational exhibits to kids throughout the borough, visiting schools, community centers and parks.
The colorful bus was donated by the parents of Sarah Malawista, a teenage artist from Maryland who had come up with an idea to create an "art bus" for inner-city schools before she died in 2006.
"The museum had actually hoped to purchase an eco-friendly mobile museum," Precht said. "This bus has so much character — its presence is so perfect. ... Now, we just need sponsors and enough green stuff to make this bus as green as possible, including conversion to biodiesel operation."
Once the art bus was donated, Precht needed a place to put it. She approached school bus contractor Atlantic Express, which has a terminal in the Bronx. The company offered to house the bus on its lot and perform minor repairs.
One of the Atlantic Express drivers will serve as the main driver of the art bus. (The museum will pay him independently.)
"These people have embraced this bus," Precht said of the company's staff.
When the permanent museum launches, Precht hopes to get the city's permission to park the art bus there.
"Until the museum is open, this is our museum," Precht said. "We're learning how long we can expect an exhibit to last in the bus, since it will be more exposed to the elements."
The bus took part in a Bronx parade in late May. Over the summer, it will visit various street festivals. In the fall, an environmental exhibit will be installed on board.
Precht noted that expenses for each bus trip will add up to about $500, so the museum is looking for donations at any level. For more information on the museum or to donate, go to www.bronxchildrensmuseum.org.