Rosybelle: The valley’s new vehicle for arts education

Apr 17, 2017

The McDougall family of Carbondale crafts together on Rosybelle bus.
Credit Claire Woodcock/Aspen Public Radio News

Rosybelle, the mobile maker space, made her debut this month. She is a bus created on behalf of Carbondale Arts, and she’s ready to provide another venue for arts education to the valley’s youth.


Courtney McDougall is checking it out on First Friday in Carbondale with her two children.

“I think they’ve done an incredible job outfitting the bus for the kids,” she said.


The nonprofit Carbondale Arts tore out the seats that would typically characterize a school bus, adding a row of desks on each side with prep tables in the back. McDougall’s daughter Petunia is in the 5th grade and is coloring the silk screened bandana she made on the bus.


“We used light ink to make mountains,” she said. “You can use like fabric markers to draw on it and like create your own way to do it.”


Reina Katzenberger is a printmaker on behalf of max.ink, a project shop within Carbondale’s Studio for Arts and Works, or SAW for short. She’s stationed at a prep table, teaching silk screening to kids and adults.


“A lot of times people don’t have the opportunities with the equipment or with the facilities,” said Katzenberger. “Screen printing back here, people can come in and learn how to screen print themselves.”


Katzenberger centers a bandana on the press, smoothing it out. It looks like the fabric ink will bleed through, but she assured it’s just a mark that helps identify where the picture will go.

“So the screen is already flooded, meaning all of those little pores in the screen that weren’t hardened in the emulsion are now filled with in,” she explained. “And, so when I pull the squeegee on it this time with pressure going straight down, it’s going to push that ink straight through onto the cotton. And so I’m just flooding the image again to fill all of those pours. It also helps it not dry out. So now I’m just going to cure it under heat which then binds the ink to the fabric so that you could machine wash this and the image won’t run out.”


Having grown up here, Katzenberger said there hasn’t been anything like this before.


“Not only for kids to have a dedicated space that comes to them that’s really focusing on creativity but also to honor the legacy of Ro Meade,” she said.  


Ro Meade was executive director of Carbondale Arts and was a champion for creativity in the valley. She passed away in 2015. Amy Kimberly, Meade’s successor, remembered her as a great advocate for arts education in public schools.

“Before she died we got to show her a picture and say, ‘You’re not dying. You’re going to become a bus,” said Kimberly. “And here she is.”


Thus Rosybelle was born. Kimberly said the idea for a mobile makerspace came from an initiative to create more third spaces for children — in addition to school and home.


“A safe place to come learn,” she said. “In a rural area, the only way to reach a good amount of youth is to be able to go to them rather than expecting them to come to you.”


In the coming months, Carbondale Arts will collaborate with different arts organizations to expose students from Aspen to Rifle to art projects not always accessible in public schools. Kimberly saw these partnerships as both integrative and inspiring for kids.


“We are pretty bountiful, but New Castle, Rifle, Silt, the RE-2 school district does not even have school on Friday because of budget restraints,” she said. “And they were amazed at the amount of opportunity our youth have up here. And we feel that it’s really important to be able to share that with a lot of underserved communities.”


Although Rosybelle runs on diesel, Carbondale Arts will install six rooftop solar panels to power on equipment. Because as Kimberly said, alternative energy will make the bus sustainable.


“We feel she’s going to be around for a long time,” she said.

While her daughter Petunia continues coloring her bandana, McDougall introduced her son, Sam. He’s 10 months old.


“He loves supporting the arts; he hasn’t figured out how to color yet but he’s still enjoying Rosybelle bus,” she said. “I’m excited for him to grow up in this town and be able to have this as a space to make art and learn.”


Catch Rosybelle next at the 5-Point Film Festival later this week in Carbondale which runs April 20-23.