Carbondale Arts’ new mobile maker studio is nearly ready to roll |

Carbondale Arts’ new mobile maker studio is nearly ready to roll

Carla Jean Whitley
Rosybelle, Carbondale Arts' mobile maker space, is nearing completion. The bus will soon be painted with bright colors, both inside and out. It's expected to be in service by April.
Carla Jean Whitley : Post Independent

Close your eyes and imagine a school bus.

It’s not the most inspiring image, is it? But then, it’s an image that hearkens back to childhood. For many, that was a time when anything seemed possible. Imagination could run rampant, especially with time and space to cultivate it.

Carbondale Arts hopes an ordinary school bus will become just such a creative space. After two years in development, the organization’s mobile maker space, a former school bus called Rosybelle, is funded and almost ready to hit the road.

Carbondale Arts recently announced the Susan Gurrentz Fund for the Arts has made a donation that will keep Rosybelle rolling for four years. The fund committed to $20,000 this year and $10,000 for the next three years. Another $10,000 from Betty Jane Schusch Foundation will also ensure the bus will be outfitted with technology to support creativity. Rosybelle’s annual budget is $60,000-$70,000 annually, depending on maintenance issues.

The retrofit is nearly complete, although it awaits colorful final touches. Rosybelle will be on the road by April.

The idea for Rosybelle grew out of the Cradle to Career Initiative of the Aspen Community Foundation, said Carbondale Arts Executive Director Amy Kimberly. The initiative challenged the group to think strategically about how to best serve Garfield County’s youth.

The result was an emphasis on a third space — not home or school, but somewhere in between. A literary arts program, 826, created by author Dave Eggers, served as inspiration. The organization’s seven chapters offer students individual attention in a creative space. The New York City location, for example, is disguised as the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co. The unusual spaces help grab community attention.

However, a similar space didn’t seem the right fit for a rural Colorado county.

“It just became clear for me that if we’re going to do something, it has to be mobile,” Kimberly said.

Instead of enticing students to come to a set space, Rosybelle will travel the county to bring art education to underserved populations. The bus is named for the late Ro Mead, who preceded Kimberly as Carbondale Arts’ director. Kimberly expects the bus to serve as space for artists-in-residence, who will then teach students their particular art form. Collaborations are also underway; in addition to Carbondale Arts’ own programming, the bus will be an extension of space for organizations such as Jazz Aspen.

Rosybelle will include access to sewing machines, music- and film-editing software, 3D printing pens and more. By the second or third year, Kimberly expects to offer adult art classes in the bus, which will also be available for party rentals.

Already, the bus seats are gone. Ten desks line the front portion of the bus, and they can be folded flat against the wall so students can gather instead for music or a story. The back of the bus offers more permanent space for additional projects, as well as a sink and storage. In the coming weeks, the light wooden cabinetry will be painted in vibrant colors to create a playful atmosphere.

“We think we’ve hit on a real need and real excitement,” Kimberly said. “We’re being approached by a lot of groups and schools.”

The bus and its offerings will be free to students as a supplement to existing educational opportunities.

The National Education Association emphasizes creativity in all subject areas and identifies it as a key skill for 21st-century success. In its “Preparing 21st Century Students for a Global Society: An Educator’s Guide to the Four Cs,” the NEA offers teachers help promoting creativity and the other Cs: critical thinking, communication and collaboration.

“America’s system of education was built for an economy and a society that no longer exists. In the manufacturing and agrarian economies that existed 50 years ago, it was enough to master the ‘Three Rs’ (reading, writing, and arithmetic),” according to the guide, which is available at “In the modern ‘flat world,’ the ‘Three Rs’ simply aren’t enough. If today’s students want to compete in this global society, however, they must also be proficient communicators, creators, critical thinkers, and collaborators.”

Kimberly expects the bus to be in action five days a week.


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