Ever since Italian neo-realist director Vittorio De Sica decided that art could only exist if it made bicycles disappear, bikes and art have had a mutually hostile relationship. The few times they’ve met since then have been disasters: recall Sears’s in-house bicycle brand “Free Spirit” (named, evidently, for the impulse wordy philosopher George Hegel believes art embodies), or Breaking Away, the state of Indiana’s greatest “artwork,” or the countless pictures of unrideable fixies and project bikes posted by their “curators” on Velospace and Fixed Gear Gallery. These last, of course, have at least the aesthetic virtue of seeming to have been made simply for their own sake, rather than for an end as mundane as getting from place to place comfortably (you should tape your drops!) The hostility of art to bikes and bikes to art is even more puzzling when we consider that both art and bikes aim to enlarge human beings’ possibilities, be they spiritual or physical. Someday, we might imagine, art and bikes will be reconciled.
And that someday may be this Saturday, September 26, when 13 galleries around Champaign-Urbana play host to the inaugural Champaign Cycle’s Art Gallery Bicycle Tour. Beginning at 10 a.m., cyclists will depart from the Anita Purvis Nature Center in Urbana’s Crystal Lake Park to undertake a self-paced and self-directed tour of galleries, local shops, and other art spaces around C-U. Participating spaces include Amara Yoga and Arts, Cinema Gallery, Heartland Gallery, Kalarte Gallery, and Fleurish in Urbana and GlassFX, Springer Cultural Center, Wind Water, & Light, and Beads & Boneyard Pottery in Champaign — and many others. On the tour, cyclists will also be offered discounts at a number of local restaurants like The Great Impasta, Pekara, Esquire, Aroma and more.
Some galleries have special events planned for the tour. Amara’s co-owners Kathryn Fitzgerald and Theresa Brandabur have planned a community art project called the Puzzle Painting Project (funded by an Urbana Arts Grant and the Urbana Business Association). In an email interview, Fitzgerald explained that Amara is “hoping some of the bikers will hop off their bikes, look at the art in the gallery, and then come outside and help paint deconstructed and later reconstructed famous paintings.” Avid cyclists themselves, Amara’s co-owners were eager to participate in the tour: “We believe that both yoga and art are meditative, calming, de-stressing and fun for the body and spirit, just like biking!”
The entry fee for the Art Gallery Bicycle Tour is $10, all of which will be donated to local arts not-for-profit 40 North | 88 West. Registering for the ride will also enter you into a drawing for prizes donated by Champaign Cycle and some of the participating gallery spaces — and you’ll receive another entry in the drawing for each gallery you visit. The ultimate prize, of course, might just be your bearing witness to the world-historical reconciliation of art and bikes.
(And if you ride, also be sure to check out my favorite C-U “art” “space”: the Colonel Sanders skull & crossbones tag on the railroad bridge over Logan Street, near Illinois Terminal!)