You can now visit one of Manitoba’s newest music and art venues — or wait for it to come to you.
Métis artist Robyn Adams says she has transformed a decommissioned school bus into a mobile music and art venue in order to help bring underrepresented women, Indigenous artists and artists of colour to centre stage.
“One thing I’m really intentional about is creating a safe space, safe environment and community for … the public to access art,” said Adams.
“The community is really taking to it because it brings accessibility everywhere.”
The short school bus is decorated with Métis art and holds a modest sound system concert goers can enjoy — if you are fortunate enough to find where it’s parked next.
The seats have all been taken out from the bus’s interior, which serves as an art venue and a recording studio.
For concerts, the bus acts as a background for bands who play to crowds outside the mobile venue.
See Winnipeg band JayWood record in the bus:
The project, formally called Field Trip Sessions, has picked up traction and will be featured at this year’s Festival du Voyageur, where Adams is now the Indigenous initiatives co-ordinator.
The bus will be open to attendees at the winter festival during the day and will feature art focused on reclaiming Indigenous languages, including art based on Adams’s own traditional language of Michif.
“I think reconciliation can happen through art, and that’s what I’m trying to do,” she said.
Adams says that it’s important to create opportunities to reclaim Indigenous voices, especially given the historic attempts of residential schools to eradicate Indigenous languages.
After completing her bachelor of fine arts degree, Adams wanted to move beyond art that is confined within the white walls of galleries.
Drawing inspiration from local galleries like Urban Shaman, and NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts — which see musicians perform intimate concerts in the office of one of the public radio service’s hosts — she decided to claim her own space.
The school bus made its debut as a venue last fall in Winnipeg’s North End as part of Nuit Blanche, an evening focused on contemporary public art, in order to bring a venue and voice to inner-city artists.
To Adams’s surprise, her mobile venue attracted around 400 people throughout the all-night event. Nuit Blanche attendees were treated to a display of Indigenous art, music, drumming and traditional hoop dancing.
In the coming months, Adams plans to use the bus to give more emerging artists an opportunity to be seen and heard in their own neighbourhoods.
After Festival du Voyageur, it will head back to the North End in March, when the mobile venue will bring performances to the Meet Me at the Bell Tower event — a grassroots community gathering held every Friday at the Selkirk bell tower to address violence and inner-city community issues.
“It’s really exciting that I got to start this project,” said Adams, and “even more exciting seeing the community attached to it … join in on this initiative.”