What happens when you turn a car into an art project? | Interesting results are likely

By J.A. Ackley
Oct 27, 2022 | honda civic, Concours d'Lemons, Chattanooga Motorcar Festival, art car, Toyota Camry

Photography by J.A. Ackley

Cars provide the perfect canvas for art education, according to Kate Warren. She founded the nonprofit Art 120, which uses vehicles as vessels for school projects.

This arted-up Toyota Camry entered the Concours d’Lemons at the Chattanooga Motorcar Festival.

[10 of the Best of the Worst at Concours d’Lemons in Chattanooga]

The car was built by high school students from Reagan High School [in Houston, Texas],” says Kate. “They had to come up with a band from the past so they could learn about culture and history at the same time. Then, they had to come up with visual cues. You’re looking at The Rolling Stones. This car’s called ‘It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll.’ It’s filled with visual cues to their songs.”

Kate founded Art 120 after seeing a need for it.

We started this about 10 years ago, when we realized there wasn’t enough art education in elementary schools at that time,” Kate says. “Of the 42 elementary schools in Chattanooga [Tennessee], only 10 had an art teacher."

The arts do more for youth than just learning how to spread paint on paper, according to Kate.

People think you’re not going to apply the arts [to real life],” says Kate, “but there’s so much creative problem solving that goes on. There’s a lot of physics and math involved. Kids learn how to weld. They learn social speaking skills when they call and acquisition different pieces for an art car.”

Art 120 also organizes the We Make Celebration on the Saturday before Mother’s Day, where art cars, and the arts in general, take center stage in Chattanooga.

You don’t have to go into the huge expense of buying a fancy car–you can use a junker,” Kate says. “You can roller skate and wear a costume you made. It’s all about celebrating the art and creativity here in Chattanooga.”

For example, the “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll” car used an old, inexpensive Toyota Camry. It still functions as a car, although it does have its limitations.

It drives pretty well,” says Kate. “I normally don’t get her above 35 mph [and] I like to keep her on flat road.”

This truck features artwork related to Pakistan.

Another student-created art car, with this one based on a 1997 Honda Civic.

Join Free Join our community to easily find more honda civic, Concours d'Lemons, Chattanooga Motorcar Festival, art car and Toyota Camry news.
Kreb (Forum Supporter)
Kreb (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
10/28/22 12:59 p.m.

More my speed:


nocones GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
10/28/22 1:03 p.m.

Art cars aren't my speed, but I respect the vision and execution required to make them a reality.  

Glad to see someone putting effort into helping enrich students lives through the automotive Hobby.  

Trent PowerDork
10/28/22 2:14 p.m.

My favorite art car of all time was built by my friend Kevin


Most art cars look like a flea market table barfed onto a car, Kevin's all have definite, well thought out themes


You'll need to log in to post.

Our Preferred Partners