Artists' bike racks grace Cultural District
Wilkinsburg artist Carin Mincemoyer's creations often explore people's relationship to nature. Her newly installed bike rack in the Cultural District — one of five locally designed bike racks — displays this theme with the shape of thunderclouds and lightning bolts.
Mincemoyer, 42, spent a few months early this year creating the metal rack out of brushed stainless steel with the help of her husband, Keny Marshall, a fabricator who did the welding. Mincemoyer's usual type of artwork uses materials like Styrofoam and plastic packing materials, wood, drink bottles and live plants. Her bike rack, which stands across the street from the Benedum Center, offered a new challenge.
“It was the first time that I've really designed a utilitarian object rather than designing an installation or sculpture that was just a gallery exhibit,” Mincemoyer says. “Biking is an activity that I want to support.
“I thought about how biking changes our relationship to nature,” she says. “It just makes you deal with nature and the weather more directly than usual. It's a good theme for that reason.”
Pittsburgh Cultural Trust came up with the idea for the bike-rack project two years ago and applied for grant funding from the Colcom Foundation, which approved the request. Each artist — Mincemoyer, Colin Carrier, Toby Fraley, Will Schlough and Connor McNabb — received $3,000 to create artsy, yet functional, bike racks, which are needed Downtown, says Murray Horne, who leads the project.
“There are just more people moving in Downtown and living in Downtown, and we saw a need to have more functional (things) like bike racks,” says Horne, curator of Wood Street Galleries, Downtown. “A lot of people are riding bikes. You see them tied to trees, to fences and to parking meters. It was obvious that there was a need for bike racks. ... We're trying to fill that.”
Artists were challenged to come up with creative ideas to make the racks pleasing to see, while making them practical and sticking to limitations and guidelines, including a requirement that the racks adhere to standards established by the Americans with Disabilities Act regarding height and other factors.
Each rack needed to be made of galvanized steel, aluminum or stainless steel and be able to hold two bikes. Other requirements included that the racks support the bikes in at least two places, including one wheel.
The five racks completed the first phase of the project. Now, the Trust is looking for more Allegheny County artists to do five more racks for the second phase. Eventually, the hope is to install about 30 over the next few years.
“I think people have responded entirely positively,” Horne says. “I think it tells visitors ... that we're really interested in the arts in Pittsburgh and we're prepared to commission new works and we want to be at the forefront of commissioning.”
Carrier, 36, of East Liberty, specializes in decorative metal work, so the bike-rack project suited his talents. His rack — a long, tapering and curving piece of steel — stands on Liberty Avenue outside Space Gallery.
“I saw the project come up, and I thought it could be kind of fun to make something blending arts with functional parameters,” Carrier says. “It was a lot of fun.
“I wanted to do something to really push the limits of what I can do in terms of manipulating the metal,” he says. “I wanted something kind of elegant and smooth and refined and minimal.”
Fraley, 36, of Bridgeville, turned his lifelong fascination with aviation into an airplane-themed bike rack that stands in front of Nine on Nine restaurant on Penn Avenue. The rack. which shows jets atop billowing contrails, presented a challenge to Fraley, who usually creates art pieces for interior decorating, along with some two-dimensional paintings.
“I had to completely shift gears to do something that would work outside,” he says.
“I wanted people to not look at it and just immediately think, ‘Oh, it's a bike rack,' ” Fraley says. “It was a fun challenge.”
Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7824.