On Saturday, as Donald Trump cruised to a victory in the South Carolina Republican primary, Mary Mihelic and David Gleeson were in Charleston behind the wheel of a big blue campaign bus formerly used by the business mogul. They bought the bus off Craigslist for $14,000 last fall and turned it into an anti-Trump art project on wheels.
The two artists rolled into Columbia on Sunday and parked on Assembly Street next to the State House.
The bus, which has 1 million miles on the odometer, now says T.RUMP on the side in reference to t.Rutt, the art collective that Gleeson and Mihelic founded. Beneath it reads #MakeFruitPunchGreatAgain as a replacement to Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again.”
“I try to use art to open up how we feel about social issues. I think there is a great role for art to play in the political process,” Gleeson said.
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He and Mihelic said people are often confused at first whether the bus is pro-Trump.
“If they’re anti-Trump, first they hate you and then they love you,” Mihelic said.
At a Hillary Clinton rally in New Hampshire, she and Gleeson said they were called Nazis and fascists.
Other places, Trump supporters are crestfallen when they realize the bus is poking fun at the billionaire presidential candidate.
The back of the bus says “Make America Great Again” in Arabic, in reference to Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the United States. On the other side, it says #WomenTrumpTrump.
When they stop at rallies, Gleeson hits golf balls with Trump’s face on them off the top of the bus. Mihelic puts Trump posters wrapped in black burqas around the bus. Sometimes they encourage people to throw red fruit punch on the vehicle, in reference to Trump’s comment about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly having “blood coming out of her wherever.”
“It’s a response to how he had been so off color about blood and women’s biology,” Gleeson said.
The artists try to add something new to the bus whenever Trump says something controversial, sort of like a visual tally of his verbal transgressions, they said.
Inside the bus, Mihelic just roped off and added black curtains to a row of seats, playing off Trump wanting to “Delay, delay, delay” replacing Antonin Scalia’s Supreme Court seat in order to thwart Obama’s nominee.
The end goal, Gleeson said, is to hopefully use the bus to help knock Trump out of the race.
In South Carolina, however, he and Mihelic knew that wasn’t going to happen.
“Obviously, the bus hasn’t worked, because he’s still winning,” he said.
“We knew he was going to win because we talked to so many people (in South Carolina). It didn’t surprise us,” Mihelic said.
Still, they aren’t giving up. The bus heads to Nashville, Tenn., next.
“The more it’s on the road, the more successful it is as an artwork,” Mihelic said.