Tucson Oddity: Classic '56 Chevy bus bench adds pizazz to Sun Tran trips

2013-01-28T00:00:00Z 2014-09-01T17:13:18Z Tucson Oddity: Classic '56 Chevy bus bench adds pizazz to Sun Tran tripsCarmen Duarte Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 28, 2013 12:00 am  • 

A bus stop created in the image of the rear end of a 1956 Chevy, complete with white-wall tires, takes many people back in time.

Motorists' heads still turn when they pass by East Broadway at Fourth Avenue and take a gander at the Chevy bus stop near the southwest corner of the intersection.

The Chevy is white with blue trim and sits under a white canopy that resembles a fluffy cloud, or the heavens. Four bronze cherubs - one on each post - appear to be holding the cloud.

Artist Lauri Slenning designed and installed the piece, "Your Carriage Awaits," in 1998 after she was commissioned by the city Transportation Department through the Tucson Pima Arts Council.

Slenning was granted a $15,000 budget, which included funding for design and construction. It took a year to complete.

"The piece reminds me a lot of an experience that I had when I was in high school," said Slenning, 56, who was born and raised in Portland, Ore.

"I was riding in a car with a bunch of crazy kids. We were driving way too fast and taking risks. I looked out the window, and I swore I saw angels flying outside the window," she said, laughing.

Slenning sculpted the car out of clay, took a mold out of the sculpture and laid fiberglass in the mold. She made the fiberglass car to fit around the steel mesh bench. The canopy's foundation is a steel frame. Carved foam and fiberglass lie on top of it, Slenning said.

Slenning said she hopes to put in a bid to renovate the piece, because it needs freshening up.

"I'd like to clean it, patch the cracks and paint it," said the artist, who received her bachelor's degree in art from Portland State University in 1979 and her masters of fine arts from the University of Arizona in 1987.

"Your Carriage Awaits" brings dozens of positive responses each year from bus riders, tourists and motorists, said Tom Fisher, project manager for the Transportation Department.

"It probably is one of the top favorite bus shelters in the city," he said. "It is more nostalgic than anything else, and Americans have a fascination with classic cars."

He added, "The piece has held up well, with very little maintenance."

The city contracts for basic cleaning of bus stop public art.

The city has 2,250 bus stops. Of those, 850 are bus shelters, Fisher said. There are about five bus shelters downtown, and 20 others in the city that include public art, he said.

Got an oddity?

Is there something you've noticed while driving through Tucson that has piqued your curiosity? Or is there some piece of Old Pueblo history you've wondered about? Drop us a line, and we'll look into it.

Contact the Star newsroom at oddity@azstarnet.com or 807-7776.

Contact reporter Carmen Duarte at 573-4104 or cduarte@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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