A converted big blue bus becomes a roving art studio for children in southeast Ohio

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NEW MARSHFIELD, Ohio (WOUB) — Gracie Roberts is busy turning glitter, glue and light strings into fairy jars. 

She is happy to be on the bus crafting because she gets all the attention she needs from her siblings, who would be on their phones if they were home.  

“I just wanted to come check it out and see what it was,” she said. “I am making bracelets and jars and stuff.”    

Roberts is at the community center in New Marshfield, where the Crafty Art Bus will be parked for the next few hours.  

Inside this big blue bus are two tables with tons of art supplies on each side. At the back are musical instruments for those who love music. 

One of the kids on the Crafty Art Bus making bracelets. [Betty Kankam-Boadu | WOUB]
Daisy Carlson owns the bus. She aims to make art and music accessible to children in southeast Ohio and beyond.  

“We’re here in New Marshfield, and all these kids don’t have transportation to all the awesome things Athens has to offer us. The same thing with Nelsonville, The Plains, and we have to be mobile to bring it to them.” 

Growing up, art was Carlson’s way of coping with uncomfortable situations.  Now, she is extending that courtesy to other kids.    

“It’s important to me that people develop good coping mechanisms in life. Life is always going to be hard, so I want to teach kids to use art and music as the outlet,” she said. 

 This dream has been nurtured for the past five years and finally took off five months ago. But getting it started was not easy. She needed to raise $4,800 to purchase the bus, which meant working extra hard. She cleaned everything, including pools, cars, attics and basements. 

Lee Roberts holds up the tree house he built in the Crafty Art Bus. [Betty Kankam-Boadu | WOUB]
A big part of this initiative is her Facebook network and other people in her neighborhood who donate shoe boxes, empty plastic bottles and jars she uses as art supplies.

With her mobile art and music studio, Carlson meets kids at local parks, community centers and public libraries.   

Lee Roberts, Gracie’s brother, made a tree house and weights with popsicle sticks, shoe boxes and toilet paper rolls. He found out about Crafty Art Bus through one of the flyers Carlson and her team circulated.  

“I barely do art anymore, but I got to do it today, so I feel good,” Lee said.  

Carlson says that she hopes to teach kids how to improvise through Crafty Art Bus.

“Don’t tell me you can’t do something,” she said. “Figure it out because that is how life is. You are not going to always get the tools that you need.” 

She also wants parents to know that it doesn’t take much to give children a good life. 

“You can give your kids a rich life without being rich,” she said. “You just need to give them your attention and that is really what they want.”   

In the future, she wants to focus more on educational art, get the support and services of retired teachers to volunteer on the bus, and eventually travel around the country to do art with kids in public places.