Featured Creator: Dana Jo Cooley and the Love Shack Bus Stop

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Today's featured creator is Dana Jo Cooley, multi-media artist who is turning a bus stop in Athens, Georgia into a whimsical, lace-underwear-filled structure inspired by the B-52's hit song "Love Shack." She's calling it (duh!) The Love Shack. And we love it.

Hi Dana, introduce yourself!

My name is Dana Jo Cooley, and I am a multi-media artist and designer. I grew up in Whitwell, Tennessee, a beautiful place with less than 2,000 residents. After graduating from the Savannah College of Art & Design in 2003, I moved to Athens, Georgia, and have been here mostly ever since. When I say mostly, I mean I travel a lot. For the last year and half, I have toured with the band, Of Montreal (theatrics and merchandise). Last year, I made 59,000 magnets for the Dave Matthews Band out of my studio. Ironically, my art always ends up mingling with music, which is great. I think they are one and the same. Music is art and art is music.

So how did this project come to be? You mention it was inspired by a project for the "You Me, & the Bus" competition — what is that?

"You, Me, & the Bus," is a national design competition hosted by the Athens Area Arts Council, in partnership with Athens-Clarke County and the Athens Transit System. The project aims to provide artistic enhancement for public transportation by integrating utilitarian public services and artistic ingenuity. 

I entered the first round of this competition back in 2005. I was notified that my entry would be better suited for the second round of competition inspired by the local music scene. So, I waited a few years and re-entered in 2008, and my design for the Love Shack Bus Stop won! I have been waiting a really long time to make this vision a reality.

The ceiling of The Love Shack is covered with lines of lingerie and a vintage abalone chandelier.
The ceiling of The Love Shack is covered with lines of lingerie and a vintage abalone chandelier.

What's the significance of The B52's and their song "Love Shack" to the city of Athens, Georgia? And why did you pick that as your inspiration for a bus stop design?

The B-52's were formed in Athens, Georgia in 1976. They played their first concert on Valentine's Day, 1977. They are still known today as the "World's Greatest Party Band." "Love Shack," was born in Athens, and remains one of the most universally known songs of our time. 

I built the first full-scale Love Shack installation back in 2003-04. It was commissioned by the Savannah College of Art & Design in collaboration with the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, for a show called "We Hear You, Georgia!" The construction was a family affair built in my grandpa's barn in Tennessee. The B-52's actually played a concert following the opening! So the Love Shack Bus Stop is a modification of that original piece. It's really cool because over the years, I have critically deconstructed the original Love Shack: "I should have done this, or I should have changed that." It's rare to have a second chance with a large piece of sculpture. So for that, I am very grateful. 

How do you translate a song into a real design?

This part is very challenging for me. My original vision for a love shack was very far from the shack depicted in the B-52's music video. It is primarily an image from my childhood. As a little girl growing up in a rustic red and white cabin on top of a mountain and playing for countless hours in the woods, my imagination entertained the idea of stumbling upon something magical. A place that was dilapidated, but beautiful, amiable yet eerie. But, when you decide to base a piece of public sculpture on a hit song, you are kinda expected to pay some tribute to the source. I understand that, so the mural I will be painting inside will have plenty of B-52's imagery mixed with my own. I am actually trying to track down the midi map of "Love Shack" as we speak, to incorporate as a design element along the interior walls. 

Interior view of The Love Shack. The leg lamp is inspired by the film "A Christmas Story."
Interior view of The Love Shack. The leg lamp is inspired by the film "A Christmas Story."

A dressed up bus stop isn't your typical art project. What's important to you about intersecting public service and art?

Most people think in order to see really great art, they have to go to a museum or gallery. That isn't true anymore. Take graffiti art for instance, it is art for all people. Whether the people like it or not, it is out there in everyday life and generates thought. Whether that thought is good or bad, it is equally relevant that it inspired a thought at all. And really, we need both settings, from the museum to the streets and both responses, good and bad. It is necessary to perpetuate a meaningful experience. I think art should be accessible, functional, and integrated whenever possible, especially for public service. The majority of people in Athens, ride the bus because they have to. They spend a lot of time waiting and thinking. If something I created makes that experience more engaging and imaginative, that makes me feel happy. 

The Love Shack Bus Stop is made entirely of love, and thanks to Kickstarter, made possible by people who love art. Kickstarter is a modern-day museum for ideas. It enables people to turn thoughts into things, live their dreams, and most importantly, it inspires people to be part of the process which is what public art is all about. 

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