A bike art project involving people with disabilities sent creativity rolling and left program coordinators pedaling to keep up.
“It really launched us into a whole new realm of art for and by people with disabilities,” said Lynne Gilmore, executive director of the AWS Foundation, which funded the project.
The creations made with recycled bicycles will be on display Saturday and Sunday during the F.A.M.E. Festival at the Grand Wayne Convention Center in downtown Fort Wayne.
Over the past eight weeks, clients of agencies working with people with physical and mental disabilities envisioned and then used parts of old bikes to create bike-related art. The bike art will be attached for the day May 17 to public art bike racks being installed around the community as part of IPFW's Sculpture with Purpose project.
Planners hope the bike art helps people recognize the sculptures are functioning bike racks.
The IPFW project, which will be presented officially to the community May 17, celebrates the university's 50th anniversary.
Fifteen agencies working with people with disabilities participated in the project, creating 21 pieces of bike art.
Gilmore said two local schools also took part in the project, stretching the age range of participants from preschool through adults.
“They were all incredibly excited,” said Simon May, the AWS Foundation's bike art program assistant coordinator, said of participants.
With “a lot of them, it was a little outside their comfort zone to do something like this,” May said. “But it was a chance to get dirty and be creative.”
“I like to see their process,” said Candy Pease, the AWS Foundation's bike art program coordinator.
The groups started with a drawing of the bike rack to which their bike art would be attached so they could create something related or compatible. Pease met with each group regularly to help them develop a vision of what they wanted to create and then to work through making it.
“The teamwork was just phenomenal,” Pease said.
Pease, May and Gilmore also were amazed by the creativity.
One group, whose bike rack sculpture features the large head of a man looking through three rings, thought it looked like he was looking through a telescope, Pease said. That made them think of birdwatching, so they decided to create a blue bird. Someone else in the group mentioned liking blueberry pie, so they now have a blue bird flying out of a blueberry pie.
While working with clients of the League for the Blind and Disabled, Pease recalls having to adjust her thinking to do more to describe the tall, skinny elephant bike rack sculpture to which their bike art would attach.
The next time she visited the group, they had their design all worked out: “Lucy,” a giant mouse, features vibrant colors and various mouth expressions that can be changed by rotating the bicycle wheel inside the mouse's head.
After seeing what teams of people with disabilities can do, Gilmore challenged them to make art for display and possible sale at the Show & Sale during the Disabilities Expo on May 10 at Memorial Coliseum.
She also plans to have the bike art displayed at the expo. In addition, some pieces will be part of a special exhibit at Wanderkammer Company, 3402 Fairfield Ave., after their use May 17 with IPFW's Sculpture with Purpose bike racks.
“Who knows where this may take us,” Gilmore said.