Russellville on limited stop of rare artwork

The Pakistani Cargo Truck Initiative was at the Cole County R-1 Schools Monday.

The Pakistani Cargo Truck Initiative was at the Cole County R-1 Schools Monday. Photo by Michelle Brooks.

— The Native American-stylized painting of Aesop’s fable “The Fox and the Crow” caught the attention of eighth-grader Skyler Kaiser Monday.


Skyler Kaiser, a Cole County R-1 eighth grader, was amazed at the artistic detail of the Pakistani Cargo Truck, which visited her school Monday. News Tribune photo/Michelle Brooks

She stood near the loading doors of the Pakistani Cargo Truck Initiative outside the Cole County R-1 Elementary School sketching the fox.

“I was so amazed by the artwork,” Kaiser said.

The inspiration of Kansas City Art Institute alumni Asheer Akram was unveiled with the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art's Echoes: Islamic Art & Contemporary Artists exhibition last month.

The Russellville schools were among a rare few who were able to see the truck in their own backyards. Since the museum is closed Monday and Tuesday, the truck was in Cole County Oct. 7-8, sponsored by Art Inside the Park, a non-profit organization that strives to promote visual literacy.

Jefferson City native Carla Steck, who coordinates the Kansas City Art Inside the Park, contacted art teacher Amy Potts about bringing the truck to Russellville.


Students at Cole County R-1 Schools had the unique opportunity to view a Nelson-Atkins Museum piece in their own parking lot. Artist Asheer Akram discussed the Pakistani Cargo Truck Initiative with them Monday morning before traveling to other schools and locations within Cole County, through the support of Art Inside the Park. News Tribune photo/Michelle Brooks

This was a way for students to take a field trip without leaving the school.

“This is an opportunity to bring world class art to our school,” Potts said.

Prior to the truck’s arrival, Potts showed a video of the truck-making process.

For young artists like Kaiser, the video couldn’t capture the wonder of seeing the redesigned 1952 Chevrolet grain truck with her own eyes.

The truck features several art genres and drew in more than a dozen artists and craftsmen.

Kasier prefers pencil drawings but she was inspired by the truck’s carved wooden doors to try her hand at woodcarving next, she said.

Seeing the truck, which also featured stained glass, metal work and woven fabric, “makes me to want to work a lot better at my artwork,” Kaiser said.

In addition to artistic inspiration, the cargo truck initiative hopes to influence further understanding of social and cultural identities.

Akram visited his father’s homeland of Pakistan in the spring of 2010 through the Lighton International Artists Exchange Program and was surprised at the elaborate beauty of the vehicles there.

In his Belger Crane Yard Studio in Kansas City, Akram began small-scale sculpting from his experience. And by February 2012 he was recruiting fellow artists for the Mideast meets Midwest project.

Drawing from the traditional Pakistani-style tracing back to palace and temple decor during the Mogul Empire, the Akram’s truck has a notable Midwest twist, including several state symbols.

“I like all the cultural stuff that goes with it,” Kaiser said. “We were very lucky to get this in such a small town.”

Potts agreed. As each elementary classroom took its turn viewing the truck, many teachers like Stacie Strobel took pictures in the hopes of incorporating the visit into future lessons.

In her eighth-grade math classes, Strobel thought she might be able to use the geometric shapes as examples. And Potts will refer to the styles in her art classes. Others may study the history or culture of Pakistan.

“Our hope is to captivate everyone by our work and inspire them to investigate cultures outside of their everyday surroundings,” promotional material said.

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