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How do you make museums less intimidating and more accessible? Put the art on old Tiger Transit buses!

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The Jule Collins Smith Museum plans to take its art on the road with help from retired Tiger Transit buses.

After launching the effort on Tiger Giving Day 2021 and receiving donations from First Transit, the museum now has two buses and plans to renovate them into what it’s calling Museum in Motion.

“The museum is really a way for us to engage outside of our buildings,” said Chris Molinski, the museum’s director of education, engagement and learning. “Museums can be very intimidating spaces where many people might not have access. … The buses can be a mobile unit to engage people wherever they are.”

The mission of Museum in Motion is to get out and serve the whole state, including the underserved, rural parts of Alabama that don’t have arts and cultural institutions.

It will be another year before the buses hit the road, as museum leaders hope to start this journey in the fall of 2023.

“We really believe art can change lives, and having access to art at an early age almost ensures that that person returns to art,” said Ellen Killough, the museum’s development officer. “If a person is not exposed to art by the time they are 8 years old, the likelihood they will never do it is very great.”

The project’s first step is custom-fitting the outside of the buses and wrapping them with a one-of-a-kind design.

“It will be a space for how artists work, what materials artists use, what strategies artists use and connecting those processes back to our exhibitions and our permanent collection at the museum,” Molinski said.

When it comes to designing the inside of the bus, plans are in the early stages but include creating an environment that can serve as a gallery and classroom while also encouraging participation in the arts.

“People can have a perception of what a museum experience looks like or could be, and this is sort of flipping the script on that,” said Charlotte Hendrix, the museum’s director of external relations and communications.

The Jule Collins Smith Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. except on Thursday, when its hours are extended to 8 p.m., and on Monday, when it is closed.

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