Bus Destination Scrolls


Like arrowheads crafted by Native Americans or yellow-ware mixing bowls that did household duty in 19th-century kitchens, time transforms certain chosen objects from our past into the display art of the present. Expert pickers with keen eyes scavenge remnants from sidewalks, streets, and factories and offer them as the latest objet d’art for urban lofts, suburban palaces, and high-end showrooms.

Patti Kay is among those who have the ability to spy mundane miscellany with the potential to become museum quality — or at least suitable for framing. (Scrap/design maven Marisa Gaggino of Royal Oak’s Heritage Co{2} is one of the local veterans of that scene; her finds have appeared in locally made Hollywood productions and restaurants, among other places.)

For Kay, the vision to glean good stuff from among castoffs is rooted in her childhood in Bay City, where her mother had a penchant for prowling garage sales. Today, the Grosse Pointe resident scours antiques shops, flea markets, consignment emporiums, and, yes, garage sales. Among her prouder recent finds are two destination scrolls that once served as route indicators displayed in the pane on the face of city buses.

“I’ve seen these scrolls in magazines, but they’re always British or New York,” she says. “I found [my first bus scroll] at a flea market.” The seller bought it from “a guy in Armada who said he still had the bus.”

Each scroll was printed with 60 street/location names listed in alphabetical order. By separating the scrolls at their seams, Kay created nine sections, which she plans to sell as originals with copies scanned onto canvas for a lower price ($465 unframed, $785 framed at Bureau of Urban Living in Midtown Detroit and Leon & Lulu in Clawson; detroitscroll.com.) Unfurled, cut, and framed flat, the scrolls serve as nostalgic touchstones, reminders of places our parents and grandparents knew.

Kay also has a trolley scroll that’s still held inside its original mechanism. “It could be displayed on a desk or mantel or sideboard,” she says.

Old things become art because of their inherent narrative. “Everything has a story,” Kay says. “Aside from the physical piece, it’s the story.”

There’s also the appealing air of mystery such objects inspire. “Pieces resurface after many years,” Kay says. “They’ve been in a private home and they reappear.”

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