Artistic Touch

ArtWorks summer program adds flair to public bike racks all over town

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Next time you’re looping around city blocks looking for the ideal parking space, be sure to stop and view the art. From realistic murals painted on the walls of scaling buildings to bronzed artifacts lodged underneath your feet on Ludlow Avenue, there are little pieces of community spirit sprinkled all around your city outings.

ArtWorks has long made it its mission to employ students and emerging artisans to produce public creations that enrich the Greater Cincinnati community. The local nonprofit since 1996 has brought urban onlookers something colorful to look forward to as they meander their way through the concrete jungle.

You might remember the Big Pig Gig, a 2000 ArtWorks project that shipped out more than 400 vibrantly themed fiberglass pigs to scatter around downtown and Northern Kentucky. The project was geared towards promoting tourism, regional sponsorship and showcasing local innovators. The group effort raised more than $800,000 for local nonprofits. Its award-winning MuralWorks program since 1997 has paired professional artists with students and communities to complete 34 murals in 25 neighborhoods.

As the summer of 2011 steadily approaches, ArtWorks continues to pump out new projects to spread smiles and encourage cranium usage all over Porkopolis. The group’s newest project, Queen City Art Racks, is an effort to decorate bike racks in public spaces as part of an artist-designed, green initiative.

“Queen City Art Racks not only adds to the bicycle infrastructure, but it is infrastructure that becomes part of the ethos of the city,” says Mike Stout, program and design manager for ArtWorks. “As a sculpture it serves to add creative character to the city and as bicycle parking it draws attention to itself. It simultaneously fills a need and creates awareness.”

Stout and ArtWorks Director Tamara Harkavy noticed a growing need in Cincinnati for more advantages and outlets for cyclists, so they began brainstorming ideas on how to cater a project toward two-wheeled commuters. The organization met with city representatives and learned that bike parking had been an ongoing issue. ArtWorks stepped in, taking this transportation dilemma and turning it into an artistic project that not only provides safer cycling spaces but also promotes creativity, ecology and a healthy lifestyle.

“As the city started to investigate their bicycle plan we all started to realize that bike parking, as well as awareness and visibility were needed,” Harkavy says. “Also, we thought this project would be the perfect intersection for promoting artistic creativity and bike riding, making Cincinnati a more bike- and artist-friendly city.”

After unveiling the launch of the inaugural Art Rack in May of 2010, ArtWorks has received more than 50 applications from those interested in adding their name and creative stamp to the project. And with the influx of artist and community interest has come the encouragement for more bike racks in more areas.

“We have had interest all over the city,” Stout says. “We also hope to put racks in Northern Kentucky. Our goal for the project is to have as many as 15 racks installed by the end of the year.”

So far, bicycle savvies can look forward to parking their emissions-free transporters in style at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center, Fountain Square, Fifth Third office tower, the YMCA on Walnut Street and Hoffner Park in Northside.

There are also plans to boost the movement on the corner of Edwards Road and Michigan Avenue in Hyde Park. Residents and businesses of the tree-lined square are stepping up and reaching out to increase the odds of their sector joining in on the green initiative project. One company in particular, Studio S, plans on hosting a three-hour spinning fundraiser. Individuals or teams can sign up for $100 and burn off calories in the name of environmental stewardship. For the same price, one can also stand by someone else doing the work, just to support the cause or cheer them on.

Other than stopping by the exercise facility May 21 to see what the hoopla is all about, and purchasing a raffle ticket for $20 giving you the chance to win products from local vendors, the outcome of the fabricated bike-rack plan will be as much of a surprise to you as the rest of the city. ArtWorks asks that everyone hold on to their banana seats because the complete collection unveiling of Queen City Art Racks will welcome sidewalks near and far during an unannounced date in July.

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