The People's Bus

CEC logo and a illustraion of the bus loaded with poeple in a a square and text on right reads The People's Bus

The People's Bus is a bus formerly used to transport people detained on Rikers Island; In partnership with the Department of Cultural Affairs and the Public Artist in Residency program, it has been transformed with input from New Yorkers into a community center on wheels; with the purpose of engaging people in NYC's civic life through beauty and joy.

See The People's Bus in Action!

Insdie of a bus that is painted with drawing of the sun and variety colors
Group of young dancers sitting inside the bus
Monkey cut out card board is rest at the front glass of the bus

"The Civic Engagement Commission has been enriched by our collaboration with the Department of Cultural Affairs and the Public Artist in Residency program. Throughout the pandemic and with Yazmany Arboleda's creative leadership, the transformation of The People's Bus and the accompanying People's Festival have helped connect us with diverse New York City communities and affirm community resilience in powerful ways. We're looking forward to continuing this programming in the coming months," - Dr. Sarah Sayeed, Chair and Executive Director, Civic Engagement Commission.

"The People's Bus is a gymnasium for the human imagination. A place to exercise our creativity together to imagine a future where all New Yorkers take care of each other. I believe that for a democracy to be sustainable it must prioritize beauty and joy in its process and outcomes. Through our work at the Civic Engagement Commission, we are just beginning to create a story-telling tradition that centers the heart. We are thrilled to join The Clemente community of artists in our expansion of this vision,"- Yazmany Arboleda, The People's Artist

Image of former corrections bus before transformation
An aerial shot of the people's bus wiht people gather around it

The beaded mural on the ceiling is a collaboration between Arboleda, Mujeres en Movimiento and local community members, based on the drawings from "We Color Our Future" done by residents during the rank choice voting tour of The People's Bus in June 2021. Graffiti, left by those detained on the bus in its previous life, was incorporated into the mural in gold. The women of Mujeres en Movimiento like to say that there are 8.8 million recycled beads, one for each resident of New York City.

Arboleda, the first artist-in-residence for NYC's Civic Engagement Commission, centers relationships in his practice of art and life. He sees The People's Bus as a gymnasium for the human imagination. He hopes it invites curiosity and creativity in all who encounter it.

The Civic Engagement Commission is the only city agency with a direct mandate to build trust in our democracy. The People's Fellows is the CEC's youth leadership program and is made up of a group of 14-20 year olds who co-led this process of transformation.

Ranked choice voting sample ballot identifying preferences for design and elements of the bus

Territorial Empathy, the Brooklyn based nonprofit design collective, led the architectural transformation of the People's Bus inspired by an intersectional engagement process with the People's Fellows. The intent was to create an adaptive, sustainable, and inclusive space that suspends the disbelief of its former oppressive state. The "Rainbow Chrome" exterior finish is an homage to NYC's first artist-in-residence, Mierle Ukeles Laderman, who, in 1983, created a mirrored garbage truck titled "The Social Mirror."

Our hope is that all NYC residents can see themselves on The People's Bus.

Blue and green landscape colored in template of the people's bus as imagined by Hugo Gonzales
Pink, red, and green patterns colored in template of the people's bus as imagined by Sarah Sayeed
Rainbow, sun, leaves, and lips colored in template of the people's bus as imagined by volunteer Marissa

Concept + Artistic Direction & Production 

Yazmany Arboleda -


Territorial Empathy -

Mujeres en Movimiento -

People's Fellows:

Isabella Baugher, Kweku Brew, Sydney Bryant, Mohamed Camara, Marissa Campiz, Diamond Carter, Kayley Chery, Samaya Gonzalez, Hugo Gonzalez,  Mira Gupta, Savannah Lee Henry, Joel Igbe, Kadija Kone, Elvis Luna,  Byron Munoz, Sikirat Mustapha, Faizah Nooraan, Emma Rehac, Saima Rocca, Ramon Rodriguez, Eden Rollé, Obrian Rosario, Maryam Salmanova, Jess Shannon, Jaoquin Soto, Paul Tapia, Wena Teng


Expedition Works -

Hive Public Spaces -

COLAB-19 -

Illuminate Cities Project -

Touching Land -


Queens Museum -

The Clemente Soto Velez -

Brooklyn Navy Yard -