By Matt Wilson, @wilsonstcomms

When you’re a kid, hearing the *snap* of the magnet bonding your drawing to the refrigerator by mom was the childhood equivalent of getting a masterpiece enshrined in The Louvre.

But I didn’t realize how much of a (relatively) small-time feeling that was until I started working here at SamTrans and was introduced to our Arts Takes a Bus Ride contest. Each year, students in grades 1-6 are challenged to draw, paint, color and doodle a picture centered on a specific theme, with one winner from each grade getting their winning piece placed onto the side of one of our buses.

ArtBus_1“There are plenty of artists who have their art in museums, how many can say their art can be found on the side of a bus?” my colleague, Dan Lieberman, asked aloud during my first week on the job back in January.

Dan and I were tasked with leading the contest this year and developing a theme that was born out of me sheepishly asking ““what if buses were wild animals?” We and our contest partners with San Mateo County Office of Education asked Peninsula students: What would a SamTrans bus be like if it were a creature roaming the streets, jungle, sea or savannah? Would the bus have sharp teeth? Or fur, flippers, a trunk and big pointy antlers? What if buses were ridden and operated by animals?

More than 150 “The Wild Side of SamTrans” submissions were received from 18 schools. A panel comprised of members from the San Mateo County Arts Commission selected the winning contestants.

The students, accompanied by their families and teachers, were recognized by the Board of Directors on Wednesday, June 6 before the unveiling of the ready-for-a-safari looking “Wild Side of SamTrans” bus. All of the winning entries are featured on the bus’ exterior and on ad cards inside buses. The Art Bus will operate in regular SamTrans service for the next year, and takes over for the 2017 “The Magic of SamTrans” bus.

The winning artists received a Summer Youth Pass, a framed copy of the bus ad card showcasing their art and SamTrans goodies. Their teachers received a gift certificate for arts supplies.


Elizabeth Or, first grade

Alma Heights Christian School, Pacifica


 Cadence Hood, second grade

Alma Heights Christian School, Pacifica


Miguel Martinez, third grade

Holy Angels School, Colma


Isa Mahmood, fourth grade

Roosevelt Elementary School, Burlingame


Valerie Lin, fifth grade

Marjorie H. Tobias Elementary, Daly City


William McCarroll, sixth grade

Ocean Shore School, Pacifica


SamTrans again congratulates these talented young artists who really captured the essence of this year’s theme. If you’re going to be a student in grades 1-6 next year, be sure to ask your teacher for an entry form and check in February or March.

Do you have any contest theme ideas for next year? If so, let us know. We’re open to ideas that we haven’t tried over the last 14 years.


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