ALTO, Ga. (FOX 5 Atlanta) - It's a hidden treasure that you might just drive past if you don't know where to look: dozens of old school buses with life-sized paintings on the sides. It's called the School Bus Graveyard, and artists have turned the buses into fun and funky art creations--all for the community to enjoy.
"My father started this business in 1959, Alonzo Wade's Used Cars," said Walter Wade, who now runs the School Bus Graveyard and auto repair shop with his brother.
Used cars, car parts, and busses were all up for sale, but thieves ravaged the buses until many weren't able to drive. So, the Wades had an idea to stop people from getting into the junkyard to take their parts.
"We made a fence line out of 'em [the buses], because people kept cutting through the fence--this one here was a little harder," said Wade.
Now, the fence line of buses protects the property. About ten years ago, an artist asked Wade to use the buses as a canvas. Since then, hundreds of artists have come through painting on the buses, leaving a piece of work behind for all to enjoy.
"I like being here because it’s very freeing. It’s humbling to get a chance to meet new artists and work together. I want the local people to feel like they have something really special and feel a sense of pride." -Artist Nick Morris on creating the School Bus Graveyard
Walter Wade, a school bus driver himself, is now the keeper of the School Bus Graveyard.
"They all have a history, there are all types of 'em--just like we are. There's all different sizes, shapes, all different stories from different parts of the world," said Wade.
From charismatic to classic, there is no theme to the art. Nick Morris is the main artist who creates masterpieces in the School Bus Graveyard. He's currently working out of Colorado but returns to Georgia to paint the buses each year.
"When people see what we are doing, I want them to realize that art is for everyone," said Morris. "Art can exist anywhere, and anyone can do it. It’s not about big shows or galleries. It’s random. It’s temporary. it’s out there, you just gotta find it," said Morris, who owns and operates art company Crispy Printz.
"You never know what you're going to see," said Wade of the exhibits that change year to year.
A group of photography students from North Georgia Technical College say capturing this art through the lens of a camera has been the ultimate visual feast:
"Every picture I take, I can feel a story coming off of it," said Will Chastain, who took several portraits in the School Bus Graveyard for his senior photography project.
Walter Wade says he will keep this graveyard alive as long as the community has an appetite for art:
"I know I'm not doing justice to the artists that are doing this. I know it because I can't put into words what they put into art. I'm dumbfounded here," said Wade.
Morris said it's all about living in the moment and just enjoying. "We want people to get loose and have fun. And always remember to “be cool or get lost," Morris said.
If you'd like to help support the artists and make a donation, click HERE. You can also contribute via Paypal and send donations to artist Nick Morris at: firstname.lastname@example.org.