ArtFul Living

St. Louis Area Fine Arts, Crafts & Performing Arts
Michelle “Mike” Ochonicky, Arts Editor

Art & Tweed Bike Ride, April 13

While in Milwaukee last summer, I headed out for a nice walk along beautiful Lake Michigan. There’s a great park area that edges the lakefront there, the kind of space that invites walking, reading, Frisbee-tossing and any number of fun events. Cresting a hill, I came upon the most fun, maybe craziest, event ever—a festival of bicycles. But it wasn’t just any festival; it was the Tour de Fat, aptly named to celebrate vintage bicycles with fat tires (and there may have been some of that brew by the same name also involved). The festival had packed the lakefront with bicycle enthusiasts of all ages, sizes, fitness levels, and garb. Truly, people had gone over the top to decorate their bicycles and themselves. Helmets covered in leaves, Viking helmets, costumes, bicycles with wheels woven with ribbons; bicycle frames covered with fake leopard fur—nothing was off-the-rack here! And clearly EVERYONE was into the art and the fun of the festival. One area featured artist-modified bicycles, some with square “wheels,” others with multiple wheels (really, one bike had six wheels) or shoes instead of treads, and people trying to ride them, just to experience these artistic variations on the theme. When a fantastic band took the stage and began a set that got everyone dancing—and I mean everyone—it was just simply irresistible. Forget the walk, I joined the dancing.

What do bicycles have to do with art? Clearly, children understand the joyful connection of bikes to art. When I was a child, my bicycle had colorful streamers that fluttered off the handlebars. And surely you, too, knew kids who painted their own bikes, stuck decals all over them, or tucked baseball cards into the spokes to make a clattery noise. Every school picnic began with a parade featuring bicycles decorated with crepe paper and flowers.

In the late 1800’s, European bicycle posters raised advertising to the level of fine art. Just look at those posters for Cycle Plasson, Manege Tivoli or the famous Cycle Gladiator – oh, wow! These posters, formerly pasted in shop windows, now hold places of honor in art museums.

Now, to get to the point, I’ve told you all that to tell you this: On Saturday, April 13, the first-ever Art and Tweed Bike Ride comes to St. Louis… and you’ll want to be a part of it. Dress in your finest knickers and caps to experience art and history. (For safety’s sake, wear a helmet over your cap). Participation is free but, for $5, there are commemorative T-shirts while the supply lasts. Registration starts at 10 a.m. and cyclists pedal off at 10:30 a.m. starting from the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum on the Washington University campus. Then cycle onward to the St. Louis Art Museum in Forest Park, the Contemporary Art Museum and The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts on Washington and finishes at the World Chess Hall of Fame in the Central West End. There will be an origami workshop at The Pulitzer, inspired by the displayed work of artist Sophie Calle. Complimentary snacks will also be provided. It’s a totally ‘green’ and healthy way to add some art to your weekend. Support for the route and the ride organized by Trailnet; more info can be found at www.trailnet.org. Cycle on!!

Last month, to a packed house at The Sheldon, Regional Arts Commission announced the results of their groundbreaking Artists Count survey. With input from over 3,000 area artists (that’s right—there are a LOT of artists in the St. Louis area), the data collected is impressive and prompted RAC to consider what artists need most to be creative. RAC realized that the cliché of “starving artists” is too often too true. The artist’s life is not always easy, and usually involves multiple jobs (at the same time) to keep afloat. To assist artists with the purchase of equipment, supplies, travel to galleries and shows, etc., etc., RAC announced it will annually award each of ten selected artists with a $20,000 fellowship AND provide artists support grants of $500 to $3,000 to fund projects, creative opportunities and needs. Funding is typically given to agencies; the idea to directly fund individual artists is novel — much needed and so much appreciated. RAC’s income is derived from hotel tax: the arts attract tourists; tourists provide the tax funding — it’s one beautiful circle for St. Louis! Thank you, Regional Arts Commission, for your strong support of artists.