Tomorrow, the Parrish Art Museum will unveil, or rather dispatch, a four-wheeled work of art-on-the-go. In a new partnership with the Hampton Jitney, the Long Island art institution is sending one work from its permanent collection en route from Manhattan to Montauk and back again, emblazoned on the exterior of a bus from the Jitney fleet. The partnership is one way in which the museum is seeking to re-brand its identity and reach out to the public in the months leading up to the spring 2012 opening of its new, spacious Herzog & de Meuron-designed home. The wraps are produced by SME, a branding firm that works with the Yankees and offered to swathe buses for the Parrish free of charge.
"Obviously we’re different than a sports team," Parrish director Terrie Sultan, a frequent Jitney-rider, told ARTINFO, "but they know how to graphically put something as complicated as an art collection on a bus that’s going to go by you in 15 seconds — unless you happen to be stuck in traffic.
Sultan says that museum officials settled on the design that was "the cleanest, the purest, and got the message out the best." For the inaugural bus wrap, hitting the road tomorrow, the design features William Merritt Chase's 1898 "The Bayberry Bush (Chase Homestead in Shinnecock Hills)," in which ladies pluck ripe fruits in a serene pastoral setting (quite the advertisement for a weekend getaway).
The wrap also bears the slogan, "The Hamptons' Great Art Collection," and the address for the Parrish's Web site — an attempt to drum up visitors for the too-often-overlooked institution, with its stellar collection that includes an array of artworks by the many artists who over the past centuries have settled or vacationed in Long Island. Selecting a single image to represent the impressive collection of 19th- through 21st-century works, however, was no easy task. "We have 2,600 objects to choose from," Sultan explained. "The question was, 'What looks great on a bus?'"
The current plan is for there to be four distinct bus wraps this year, highlighting one artwork per season. Sultan believes that the Hampton Jitney — founded in 1974 as a modest gaggle of vans, and now a chief purveyor of weekend crowds — is the perfect partner for the institution. The Jitney is already the official media sponsor and the official transportation for the museum, and it belongs to the Parrish business council. Sultan believes that the people behind the venture are "very community-minded, and they’re terrific guys as well as being wonderful businessmen."
If one fleeting Merritt Chase work is not enough to sate a thirst for art on Long Island, "American Still Life: Treasures from the Parrish Art Museum" is on view at the Parrish through November 28. And soon enough the Parrish will park in its vast new building. "Once we move we’ll have 12,000 square feet of exhibition space, 7,000 of which will be dedicated to the permanent collection," Sultan said. "But, in the meantime, we want to get people aware of what they’re going to be able to see once we’ve moved. And what better way than putting it on a bus?"