ByMary Ellen Riddle/Correspondent
A freshly painted coral and white school bus has been making the rounds across the Outer Banks. Called Bus 252 for the local area code, the vehicle is jam-packed with art and gifts created by local and regional folks. Starting this mobile business and updating another creative endeavor were silver linings in the COVID-19 cloud for former art gallery owner Ami Hill.
The 40-year-old businesswoman with a corporate marketing background was successfully running Muse Originals in Kitty Hawk when the pandemic hit. “I was sitting there worrying about howI was going to pay rent with the beach closed down,” Hill said. So, she nixed the brick-and-mortar setup and went mobile.
After letting go of big items such as large paintings—Hill, her husband, Jason Dietz, and a friend gutted and remodeled the interior of an old school bus, added a roll-out awning and a set of stairs to the rear of the vehicle. They splattered the floor with paint and installed sand fencing to hang art from new and past Muse Original artists.
The school bus became a trove for art and gifts, with everything in the mix from small paintings, ceramics, jewelry and repurposed art to local jams and skincare products.
Hill’s next step was finding somewhere to park her gallery-on-wheels.
“I drove around looking for businesses with a big parking lot or big fields,” she said. Run Down Café fit the bill, so she contacted them to see if they would allow her to set up at their site. The restaurant quickly called her back with a “yes,” and Hill was out of the gate. Her intent was to set up the art bus and also invite other artists to join her to create what she has dubbed Muse Market. The first event in 2020 featured the art bus and six other artists selling their creations in pop-up tents. The number of participating artists has since grown to average between 10-20 creative vendors.
On Wednesdays, you can find Muse Market at Jimmy’s Seafood in Kitty Hawk. And on Fridays, the weekly market is in full swing at Longboards, also in Kitty Hawk. “Kitty Hawk has been good to us,” says Hill about working with the town to host the market that features a wide array of goods including jewelry, candles, paintings, skin care items, resin art, shell art and functional art.
From mid-June through early September, Bus 252 will journey solo to Corolla and set up at the Cork and Craft. Hill advises that you check her Facebook page to get all the info you need, including any schedule changes.
The art bus was not the only idea up Hill’s creative sleeve last year. She invented the OBXOXO Box a few years back, but added a new twist to the successful business in January 2020 beforeCOVID-19 hit. The original idea was to fill gift boxes with locally made products from food to beauty products and provide them seasonally via a subscription service. But the new twist opened the business up to allow individuals to order them without a subscription and even choose what they want to fill them with instead of Hill doing it. This taste of the Outer Banks has gone gangbusters.
“A rental company bought 300 boxes for guests,” Hill said. “I am thankful for the box. The box and the bus got me through.”
Keep an eye out for that smiling woman behind the wheel of the coral and white bus. She’s got something special for Outer Banks lovers, and she’s on the move! Contact:email@example.com.