T.RUMP Bus in NH

T.RUMP Bus in New Hampshire, 2016 (all images by and courtesy of David Gleeson and Mary Mihelic)

Late last year, David Gleeson and Mary Mihelic, cofounders of politically minded art collective T. Rutt, learned via Rachel Maddow that a Donald Trump campaign bus was up for sale on Craigslist in Des Moines, Iowa. Trump’s team had used the bus — a former bachelor party bus, complete with a stripper pole — to campaign at the Iowa State Fair. Gleeson, who’d been working on a series of political artworks protesting Trump, seized the opportunity: The next day, he flew to Des Moines and purchased this “nice piece of raw material,” as he calls the vehicle.

Now, Gleeson and Mihelic have transformed Trump’s bus into a rolling art project protesting the Republican presidential nomination frontrunner’s divisive rhetoric. In this “kind of seedy” bus, which the artists say has a million miles on it, they’ve been traveling to Trump rallies across the country, as well as to Miami Beach during Art Basel for the Conception Art Fair. With red paint, they’ve amended the slogan on one side of the bus to read “T.RUMP: Make Fruit Punch Great Again”; on the other side, it now reads “T.RUTT: #WomenTrumpTrump,” protesting Trump’s negative comments toward women. In the evening at every rally they attend, Gleeson stands on top of the bus in a neon jacket and drives a golf club into a ball with Trump’s face on it. “We’re driving Trump into the sunset,” Gleeson tells Hyperallergic.

T.RUMP Bus My Struggle

T.RUMP Bus, “My Struggle”

“The T.RUMP Bus uses the bizarre realities of Donald Trump’s bullying presidential campaign to explore important questions about American society today,” the artists write in a statement. “The bus is a great platform for responding to Trump’s daily belligerence, whether it be racial, religious, sexist, or his teasing of a handicapped reporter.” Their artistic responses to this bigotry have evolved over the course of their tour. After Trump called for a ban on Muslims traveling to the United States, they wrote Trump’s slogan (“Make America Great Again”) on the back of the bus in Arabic; after a Hillary Clinton supporter at a rally didn’t get their joke and accused T.Rutt of being Nazis, they satirized Trump’s fascistic rhetoric by writing “My Struggle” on the bus, with a list of his biggest personal challenges: “To not hate,” “To not rape,” “To not cheat at golf,” etc.

What makes this piece of political art so intriguing and effective is precisely that it’s not immediately recognizable as political art. The changes to the bus’s original facade are subtle — “It’s not a crazy rainbow hippie art bus,” Gleeson says. That means that Trump supporters constantly come up at rallies and take selfies with the bus, only to have it slowly dawn on them that “Make Fruit Punch Great Again” isn’t their candidate’s actual slogan. Then, they tend to get pissed off. In this way, the bus doesn’t preach to a choir or operate in a liberal vacuum — it’s started some real dialogues between members of opposing sides. On the flipside, Trump haters on the road constantly give the finger out their car windows, not realizing the bus is also anti-Trump. “It’s this crazy artwork where you watch someone’s emotions shift from one moment to the next as they start to understand it,” Mihelic says. 

The rolling artwork also comments on Trump’s own campaign tactics of absurd performance and entertainment by echoing them and turning them against him. “Trump really is his own kind of performance artist. He’s an incredible entertainer,” Mihelic says. “He’s so much more engaging than all the other Republican candidates. So it’s interesting to parallel that with the performance art of the bus. As we pull into parking lots at rallies in this bus as sign of protest, and David stands on top of the bus, swinging golf clubs at golf balls with Trump’s face on them, we’re almost as entertaining as Trump is at the rally.”

Why was this bus being sold on Craigslist, of all places, instead of, say, Trump’s luxury real estate site? Williams explains that Trump’s team had been stiffing the guys from whom they’d leased the bus, so, despite having spent $10,000 on a vinyl wrap job with Trump’s name and slogan, they had to return it after a few months. Not having any use for the Trump-ified bus, its owners decided to sell it on Craigslist for $14,000.

T.Rutt are currently raising funds on Kickstarter to help pay for gas, maintenance, and documentation of the T.RUMP Bus’s artistic journey to the primaries in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and so on. While they may not manage to make fruit punch great again, maybe they can at least make a few Trump supporters think again.

T.RUMP Bus at Conception Art Fair, Miami

T.RUMP Bus goes Arabic

Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” printed on the T.RUMP bus in Arabic

A man poses with the T.RUMP Bus in Manning, South Carolina

T.RUMP Bus in Manning, South Carolina

T.RUMP Bus in Manning, South Carolina

To follow the T.RUMP Bus’s travels and see when it’s coming to your area, follow T.Rutt on Twitter. The T.RUMP Bus will be at the VOLTA NYC Art Fair from March 2nd–6th. 

Carey Dunne is a Brooklyn-based writer covering arts and culture. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Baffler, The Village Voice, and elsewhere.

55 replies on “Artists Buy Trump Campaign Bus on Craigslist, Turn It Into Anti-Trump Art Project”

  1. This might interest those in NY for Armory Week:

    The bus will be at VOLTA NY (Pier90, adjacent to The Armory Show) on Wednesday March 2nd from 5PM to 10PM and on Saturday, March 5th from Noon to 8PM.

    Also, VOLTA NY will offer free access to the Vernissage on Wednesday, March 2nd from 8PM to 10PM.

  2. I think it’s also telling, that rather than honoring the lease agreement after it had served its usefullness, T—- cashed out and left the premises. I think the term is “cut and run”. Goves one pause to wonder just how that would play out when the electorate outlives its usefulness.

    1. It seems that neither you nor the authors are providing an ounce of proof for those allegations, which isn’t surprising. Did a little searching and I can’t find one shred of evidence that Trump “stiffed” anyone nor breached a lease. Not surprising, this lie fits well with the other lies in this story, so at least it’s consistent. And do you understand what a lease is? It’s a temporary use of something, which is why they are no longer leasing it because they don’t need it any more. Don’t tell me, you’re a Dem voter? Lucky guess on my part.

  3. Dear David Gleeson and Mary Mehelic:

    This Trump bashing is getting lame, lame, lame. It’s quite easy to throw stones at those whom you consider to be your opponents/rivals, but are you going to tell me Hilary Clinton doesn’t come with a full set of baggage herself? Try checking out how Hilary’s policies have oppressed black men in prison (you can find articles about this in the Huffington Post, which I’m sure you both read), then come up with a similar “artistic statement” – that is, if you’re not too intoxicated by your own bias.

    Where’s the artistic statements over the creeping fascism under Barack Obama, which has been journalistically corroborated to be even worse than the policies initiated by his predecessor, George W Bush? Does he get a pass because he’s a Democrat and African-American? Does Hilary get a pass because she’s a woman? Have any of you even bothered to read the Monica Lewinski book? She has first-hand experience with the darker, more vindictive side to Hilary Clinton. Does none of this create fodder for other artistic statements? How about using art to illustrate how broken and corrupt the election process is on BOTH SIDES of the equation?

    Just some random thoughts from someone who can think for himself.

    1. You’re a fool. Creeping fascism under Obama my *ss. You don’t even know what fascism is. You go out of your way here to defend a racist, which is all we need to know…about you. STFU

      1. News flash, KarenSez – I am not white. Funny the blanket judgements and false assumptions one makes based on their own narrowmindedness. I am black. I would like to see Bernie Sanders, not Hilary Peron Clinton positioned as Commander-in-Chief. You may not believe it (and either your privilege or closed mind makes that possible), but I believe the penal and judicial treatment of black men under POLICES THAT HILARY CLINTON SIGNED OFF ON is inherently, systematically racist. I’d refrain from throwing stones if I were you. I do not defend Donald Trump – I simply ask that the same level of scrutiny be applied to Hilary Clinton, which apparently, no one in mainstream media has the guts to do. You mention Benghazi and those unsecured emails, and suddenly you’re automatically assumed to be a Republican or a Trump supporter, or both. Maybe the populace shares responsibility for the brokenness in our political system due to their absence of independent thinking.

        1. Yeah, right, “Hillary Clinton signed off on” those policies (she was really running the country, you know) because she JUST KNEW more black people would be locked up. Like I said, you are a fool. Misogynistic fool. And troll.

          1. Look up the word misogyny, it means hatred of women. Criticizing a corrupt female politician on her incredibly horrible record is not hatred, it’s called facts. You don’t even understand the silly propaganda words you have been taught to use.

          2. A lot of the negative aspects of Clinton’s record are just ordinary facts, like her 2002 vote on intervention in Iraq, or her crowing about killing Qaddafi.

          3. The Clinton incarceration and police militarization program, which HRC supported, is the domestic side of the same political philosophy which led her to support the criminal invasion and occupation of Iraq, and numerous other wars and military adventures which followed. Trump may be lying, but at least he has questioned the national addiction to war everywhere all the time.

          1. Nothing listed by that propaganda rag is racist. Another one who doesn’t understand the meanings of words. Using huffpo as a source is the first sign of questionable intelligence. The confirmation of idiocy is actually believing their headline.

          2. Keep throwing that word around and diluting it’s effectiveness. Nobody cares if you call them racist because you don’t have a grasp of the meaning of the word.
            Try calling me a different word you don’t know the meaning of.

          3. Looks like the intelligence level of the crowd you would roll with. Just keep monkeying around, that’s where you excel.

          4. Wow, that was one masterful article of guilt by association, or blatantly NON racist incidents being classified as racist because someone happened to have brown skin. I don’t even think you realize what racism is.

          5. You asked for examples. I provided them. You ignored them.

            nah, that wasnt too predictable!

          6. I asked for examples, you provided an article full of BS that characterizes a bunch of non-racist topics as racism.

            Nah, that wasn’t too predictable!

          7. Sorry jethro.

            Youre brainwashed and very likely a racist yourself, nothing can be done for you.

          8. You do realize that you calling everyone a racist who disagrees with you only works on weak minded fools. Again, your attempt at proof was pathetic, Trump hasn’t done one thing racist at all. You’re making yourself look foolish.

    2. my thoughts are that if you think Donald Duck is the solution to America’s problems that thinking for yourself has not been a successful endeavor – rewire your brain and start again

      1. My thoughts are that if you think calling him childish names somehow doesn’t seem transparent and infantile then thinking for yourself has not been a successful endeavor either.

    3. “Creeping fascism”? Are you blind or mental or both?

      Honestly, I just do not believe people in your increasingly demented country. Here you finally have a president with a head on his shoulders, who has been doing his damndest to make your country something approaching reasonable… and yet folks like you rush rush rush to believe the bullshit put out there by the GOP as fear and devisieness. “He was born in Kenya!” (Five years before the country itself was even born, I might add) “He’s over-reaching with his executive actions!” (although folks seem to have real problems pointing out exactly *how* he’s done this) “He’s sidestepping Congress!” (as if this congress is one worth any sort of attention in the first place, given its inability to do much beyond repetitively “appeal” the ACA and rename post offices) “He’s gonna take away our guns!” (whihc hasnt happened in seven years now, so I guess he’d best get started if he wants to do this at all)

      Someday you Yanks are going to wake up and realize what a gift you had with Obama and how much you squandered it away. And sadly, today just doesnt seem to be that day,

      1. Obama is a first class piece of crap and this fundamental transformation he’s been working on has brought us to the verge of civil war in case you haven’t been paying attention. You obviously don’t understand what is going on over here because you’re being fed rainbows and unicorns by your news sources. He’s easily the worst president this country has ever had and his policies have managed to bring us to the verge of collapse in just 8 LONG years. Not even ignorance can account for how bad his policies have been for us, it’s intentional sabotage by someone who hates the US.

        1. We do understand the obstructionist constipation of a do-nothing Congress lead by Republicans, so childish as to refuse to review judicial candidates which is their DUTY. That’s akin to treason as far as I’m concerned.
          And screw you with talk of renewed civil war and, according to you, it’s Obamic origin; Why weren’t you up in arms about Gubment when W was claiming “Mission Accomplished”? Yet another generation of America’s youth maimed, abused, forgotten, ignored by a party willing to sacrifice the young of OTHER Americans so that their own can profit from endless wars.
          Wow, talk about “collapse”, you mean like the twin towers and the financial meltdowns or the jobs outsourced under W? oh, you don’t mean that, hmm, what Obama collapse then dude? Your argument just collapsed.

          1. W was just as much a criminal is Obama is. I didn’t like either one. Which goes to show you don’t know what damn thing and you just assume that I’m a Republican. If you’re foolish and playing one side off the other then stuff like this happens. Instead of calling out both candidates you just call out W and not Obama.

  4. “Trump’s team had been gypping the guys…” Gypping, an ethnic-based slur derived from gypsies, should be edited out of this story.

  5. The story by the Des Moines Register on September 28, 2015 when the bus appeared on Craigslist contained an interview with the mechanic and co-owner of the bus. He said the campaign did pay for the wrap job and he made no allegation that the lease was breached.

    1. Exactly, notice the clever insinuations made in the article, with no evidence or explanation whatsoever. It’s pretty clear where the authors line up politically. Did a little searching and I can’t find one shred of evidence that Trump “stiffed” anyone nor breached a lease. Not surprising, this lie fits well with the other lies in this story, so at least it’s consistent.

  6. Wow, this doesn’t reek of disinformation too much. Surprised you didn’t photoshop some pictures of Trump sacrificing minorities and eating their hearts just for good measure.

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