The Center for the Arts (CFA) decided to bring an end to the Arts Bus this summer, thus removing a convenient transportation option for students who want to travel to New York City. Director of the Center for the Arts Pamela Tatge cited rising fuel costs and liability issues as the main factors in the decision to cancel the bus.
Launched in 1984, the Arts Bus was frequently used by professors, especially in the Art History department, to provide students with a means of visiting museums and other places of interest in New York City. It ran four trips per year, picking up passengers at 8:00 a.m. on campus and dropping them off at museums in New York City. A return trip would then run in the evening, providing patrons with an entire day in the city. The round trip cost for students was $30, according to Ankur Verma ’10, who used the bus twice to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art.
Verma said that taking the Arts Bus was a great experience. Most students used the bus to visit museums or see Broadway shows, he said. Tatge also praised it for its convenience.
“It was a really convenient way for people to get into New York City, whether they went to see an arts event or not,” she wrote in an e-mail.
Last year 317 people, including 182 University students, rode the Arts Bus. Tatge expressed regret that the service was discontinued.
“We hope that if the economics change in the future, we may be able to reinstate it,” she wrote.
Press and Marketing Coordinator for the CFA Adam Kubota noted that, in addition to liability concerns that a student might be left behind, logistical issues with transporting students also played a role in the cancellation.
The disappearance of the Arts Bus has presented a dilemma for professors who previously used the service for class trips to the City.
“These trips, and the associated museum visits, are an integral part of my teaching,” Art History and African American Studies Professor Peter Mark wrote in an e-mail, noting that he has organized trips to the City for the past 22 years.
In previous years, Art History Professor Katherine Kuenzli sometimes required her students to travel to museums. Entire classes would visit exhibits and engage in informal discussion and informal analysis of the art they observed.
“It is very important to give students the opportunity to see artwork directly,” said Kuenzli.
Kuenzli explained that working out other ways to get to museums, such as having a professor drive students or having students carpool, presents liability issues of its own. If an accident were to occur, Kuenzli said, the professor could be held responsible.
As an alternative to the Arts Bus, Kuenzli and Professor of Art History and American Studies Elizabeth Milroy are considering using public transportation to take classes to the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford. Kuenzli also stressed that, though there are other options for getting into the City, they are not always as accessible or as inexpensive.
All in all, the removal of the Arts Bus as an option has created a major logistical burden for professors planning trips to New York—and, perhaps, is representative of a larger issue.
“[The difficulty to travel to New York] is one story within the larger narrative of how to get off campus and take field trips…in a way that is equitable to students,” said Milroy.