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Rensselaer Alumni Magazine Spring 2006
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At Rensselaer

Architecture

Celebrating History Through Art

Architecture professor Michael Oatman used Rensselaer students to help create the MTA Bus Centennial poster.

Architecture professor Michael Oatman used Rensselaer students to help create the MTA Bus Centennial poster.

Since January, a poster hanging in subway stations and bus terminals across New York City has been reminding commuters of the city’s rich history of bus transportation.

Rensselaer Clinical Assistant Professor of Architecture Michael Oatman was commissioned by the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) to create the poster in celebration of the Bus Centennial — one hundred years of motorized bus service in New York City.

Oatman enlisted the help of his Falling Anvil Studios, architecture students that he’s selected to work with on various art projects that have been displayed and exhibited nationally. According to Oatman, the students are “involved in all aspects of the projects, from conceptualization to the making of stuff.”

Best known for his collage work, Oatman drew on that experience for the MTA poster, which he titled “Busman’s Holiday.” Using photos from the MTA archives, he worked to create a poster representative of a gallery wall, featuring framed archive photos.

Oatman photographed Rensselaer architecture students Erin Cusker, Matthew Fickett, and Jenna Beltram (along with Cramer Silkworth) to create the silhouettes in the foreground of the poster. The silhouettes not only appear to be viewing the photographs, but they are also queuing in line to step through the wall and board a historic bus.

“I wanted to create a ‘mini-museum’ in one picture, and to bring the archives — which were squirreled away as archives oftentimes are — out to the people,” says Oatman. “I wanted to show them the rich history of this place.”

The MTA printed more than 5,000 “Busman’s Holiday” posters, which are still being posted in stations and terminals throughout New York City.

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