Eighth grader Jenna Braun often doodles on paper. But her latest masterpiece now stretches across the side of a 40-foot Regional Transportation District (RTD) bus that will run throughout her hometown of Aurora.
Jenna and her artistic collaborator, fellow Aurora Frontier eighth grader Madison Baxter, created a piece called “You Never Know What’s in Space” for RTD’s pilot program “I Heart My RTD.”
More than 2,400 students representing 16 schools from the Aurora and Cherry Creek school districts participated in the RTD’s inaugural student art contest. One submission from each district earned top honors.
“It feels absolutely incredible,” Jenna -- who likes to paint, draw and sing -- says.
The two winning student artists used paint and markers to create a colorful piece centered around the idea that RTD can take you anywhere you want to go. The work depicts some of the pair’s favorite things like pizza and musical instruments.
“There are so many messages in art and what it can mean, and people can show their real personality,” Jenna says.
On Monday, RTD revealed the two finished murals -- which each cover a side of one bus -- during a ceremony at Aurora Frontier P-8 Middle School. The newly decorated bus will also visit Fox Ridge Middle School to honor the fellow first place winner Sydney Cole.
Monday’s event included remarks from Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan and RTD District E Director Dr. Claudia Folska, who initiated the effort.
Folska hopes to involve other area school districts in the future.
“I wanted to engage our community through children’s expressions of their feelings toward public transportation through the medium of art,” Folska says. “It’s a great way to capture their imaginations and to hear their voices.”
With RTD’s services like commuter and light rail expanding, Folska says the art program aims to start conversations with children about public transportation.
“It brings about real heightened awareness, ownership and engagement of the whole community when it comes to using public transportation and the safety concerns,” Folksa says.
RTD launched the contest in September and RTD officials later narrowed down the submissions to one finalist from each school.
In October, the general public voted online for the top three submissions. A committee, which included RTD graphic designer Joan Garcia, RedLine Gallery education coordinator Robin Gallite and Megan Mueller of Centennial Youth Commission, then selected the first, second and third place winners from each district.
RTD will also display other pieces created for the contest inside buses.
The prize winners worked closely with graphic designers and toured Sign Language XL, the Denver shop that printed the final products, to see at first hand how their art was transformed to fit the bus.
“The process is something that is even more spectacular because the students can then see what an artist does that involves not just making art but also planning, communicating with people and installing it,” Aurora Frontier art teacher Thad McCauley says.
Jenna Braun, meanwhile, says the entire experience has furthered her creative interests.
“Art is definitely going to be something I do in the future,” Jenna says.