Hin Bus Depot is a creative community hub in George Town. Home to a gallery, arts & events spaces and creative business outlets, we are working towards a sustainable community and providing a platform for artistic execution.
Watch this video for a quick introduction of the space. Hin Bus Depot video was produced by LUMA in 2021.
Hin Bus Depot’s story began with one artist’s search for an exhibition location. Known as the man who introduced murals to Penang, Ernest Zacharevic, a young Lithuanian artist, was searching for a space for his first solo exhibition. Numerous sites were turned down until the shabby, abandoned Hin Company Bus Depot came to mind. It was love at first sight. Art Is Rubbish Is Art opened its doors to the public on 17 January 2014, featuring works of art made from preloved junk, discarded treasures, and overlooked street items. The venue itself seemed an integral part of the exhibition’s theme—the original structures of the once-abandoned depot had been retained, with only necessary repairs and additions made for operational purposes.
A labour of love
Having poured so much love, time, and effort into the project, the team of local artists who helped Zacharevic couldn’t just let the space go. The exhibition had been very well received, garnering interest and coverage from the public and the press—both local and international—providing them the impetus to propose something more permanent: an independently run gallery for artists to express themselves.
Began as a space run by independent artists, Hin Bus Depot has since evolved into a community project run on the belief that there should be no limit to the expression of art—and that each person, no matter their profession, is an art lover and collector at heart. Today, Hin Bus Depot is managed by a small but passionate creative collective working together with the community to sustain the depot as a space which supports and showcases progressive and upcoming artists, artworks, events, and art forms of all kinds.
View what Hin Bus Depot looks like today.
Hin Company Ltd was one of the many private companies awarded motorbus licenses to operate on the island in the aftermath of World War II as part of the colonial government’s efforts to restore George Town. Hin Company’s then-famous Blue Buses plied both the Northwest route from Prangin to Tanjung Bunga as well as the route along the western seaboard to a terminus in Teluk Bahang.
To house and maintain their buses near their main base of operations in town, the Hin Company built the bus depot along Brick Kiln Road (now known as Jalan Gurdwara) in 1947. Constructed in an art deco-style, a somewhat rare style of architecture amidst George Town’s Victorian and Georgian houses, the depot had its heyday in the 1970’s and was believed to be the most stylish bus depot in Penang.
In 1973, Koperasi Gabungan Negeri absorbed Hin Company, turning it into KGN Hin Bus Co, before it was subsequently acquired, along with many other corporations, by the SJA Group in 2000. The depot itself closed its doors in 1999, whilst the famous Blue Bus finally ceased operations in the early 2000s amidst the proposed restructuring of Penang’s struggling public transportation system.
Through the decades, the depot had withstood both time and change but soon withered under the brutal tropical weather once left vacant. The shabby, dilapidated building finally came into the possession of a company owned by three families in 2010, however, it was not until Ernest Zacharevic’s 2014 Art is Rubbish is Art exhibition that the space took its first transformative steps to become the vibrant art collective it is today.
Hin Bus Depot currently sprawls over 60,000 square feet, including eight shophouses on Jalan Gurdwara and three others facing Jalan Kampung Jawa Lama. An old coffee shop continue to operate whilst other vacant lots have been restored and converted into new spaces for local small businesses and artist studios.
Whilst minimal renovations has been made and care has been made to preserve its old-world charm, the original interior structure of the building has become impossible to recognise—with walls inside the former depot now serving as canvases for art. Touted by Penang Monthly as a successful case of creative placemaking in Penang, the previously derelict bus depot is now a vibrant creative hub that houses a gallery, artist studios, startups, several food and beverage outlets, and retail outlets, as well as hosts a weekly creative market that supports small businesses in the community.