by Rebecca Berrios, Community Engagement Manager, Metro Nashville Arts Commission

Nashville’s participation in the national Poetry in Motion® program gives a platform for Metropolitan Transit Authority’s (MTA’s) youth ridership to have a voice through poetry and features their work as public art to enhance the bus-riding experience for the city’s 800,000 monthly riders.

Created in 1992 by the Poetry Society of America, Poetry in Motion® was designed to showcase classic and contemporary poetry in public transit vehicles. The program has appeared in more than thirty cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City, and made its Nashville debut in 2012.

This April advertising spaces in all city buses will be transformed into mobile galleries as the Metro Nashville Arts Commission (Metro Arts) partners with MTA to bring the Poetry in Motion® program here for the fourth year.
Metro Arts also engaged the MTA Youth Action Team to get involved by co-sponsoring a contest for Nashville’s youth poets, ages 13–17, to submit entries in response to the theme “Where Are You Going?”

Led by Oasis Center, the Youth Action Team is an organized group of diverse high school students who use their voice and skills to increase youth ridership for Nashville MTA by serving as ambassadors, helping identify key transportation issues, developing action strategies for change, and promoting youth transportation independence.​

MTA youth action team, Students from left to right: Vincent Harris,  Vera Aluoch, Jamal Quarles, Dominique Polk, Okey Ohanaka,  Al’Tashia Jordan, and Carsan Parham (not pictured: Braxton Coleman). Photograph by Abby Whisenant

MTA youth action team, Students from left to right: Vincent Harris,
Vera Aluoch, Jamal Quarles, Dominique Polk, Okey Ohanaka,
Al’Tashia Jordan, and Carsan Parham (not pictured: Braxton Coleman). Photograph by Abby Whisenant

Youth Action Team representative Jamal Quarles commented, “We felt the Poetry in Motion® program would be a fun way to get youth interested and involved in bus-related activities. We also felt those who participated and/or won the contest would be inclined to ride the bus to see their poetry displayed. We hoped they would then inform their friends and family about their poetry being on some of the buses, which would also give them incentive to ride.”
Five talented contest finalists were selected to receive a cash prize and have their poems displayed inside buses throughout the month, which also encompasses National Poetry Month and 30 Days of Transit. Metro Arts proudly congratulates the following poets:

Eboni Croney, Age 17, Nashville School of the Arts
Quincy Harris, Age 14, Hunters Lane High School
Andrew Pelham, Age 13, Meigs Academic Magnet Middle School
Aidan Sullivan, Age 17, Hume-Fogg High School
Taleya Turner, Age 15, Hillwood High School

Original works are also being featured by Nashville’s first Youth Poet Laureate Lagnajita Mukhopadhyay and finalists Cassidy Martin and Lemuel Robertson. The custom posters displaying the poems were designed by Hannah Burchard, a student at Nossi College of Art.

In celebration of 30 Days of Transit, an awareness-building campaign for public transit each April, Transit Now Nashville is presenting a community fair at the Nashville Farmer’s Market in partnership with Team Green, Oasis Center, Metro Arts, and groups promoting health and wellness. At this free, family-friendly event attendees will have an opportunity to hear participants in the Poetry in Motion® program perform their pieces live.

The winning poems can be viewed on www.artsnashville.org, along with more information about the Poetry in Motion® program and the transit event.

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