Sculpture with Purpose

New reasons to ride your bike

A sampling of bike rack sculptures, photos courtesy of IPFW
Downtown sculpture map

Spring is busting out all over, and soon, the blooming flowerpots downtown will be joined by bike racks-slash-sculptures that will arise throughout downtown and the city. They’re thanks to – and in honor of – Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne’s 50th anniversary this year.

The project, which will feature 50 sculptures of varying sizes, is dubbed Sculpture with Purpose, and the pieces are being created by artists from across the country, according to project manager Ruth Stone. Twelve of the sculptures will be located on the IPFW campus, 32 will be in the downtown area and the remainder will be installed on sponsors’ grounds.

Each piece will honor IPFW by including a triangle, IPFW’s symbol, somewhere on the sculpture, and each sculpture will also have another “purpose” as a bike rack, a place to lock one’s bicycle when out and about, Stone noted. The artworks will also have a QR code that can be scanned for information about IPFW and its anniversary.

On May 17, IPFW will join with Fort4Fitness, the City of Fort Wayne, Arts United, Visit Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne Trails and the Downtown Improvement District to dedicate the sculptures with the first annual “Kickstart!” celebration, IPFW’s Irene Walters said.

“Instead of just unveiling the sculptures, we want to ‘kick-start’ the festival season,” Walters said. “The whole downtown will come alive.”

The celebration begins with the Fort4Fitness’s Spring Cycle bike tour at 9:30 a.m., followed by the sculpture dedication at 11:30 a.m. at the Auer Center for Performing Arts, 300 E. Main St. (Six sculptures will be located in the “arts campus” made up of the 200 and 300 blocks of East Main Street.) Performances by Fort Wayne Youtheatre, the Fort Wayne Children’s Choir, the Old Crown Brass Band, the Fort Wayne Ballet and more will be through the day. Most events are free.

Much like 2005’s Mastodons On Parade, Sculpture With Purpose will become a community event, Walters said. A “treasure hunt” of sorts will kick off that day as well, with contestants seeking to find the IPFW triangle on each of the 50 sculptures. The winners will be announced during the Three Rivers Festival in July.

But unlike Mastodons on Parade, these sculptures will remain where they are erected. For sculptures on city sidewalks, the City of Fort Wayne has ceded rights of way to Arts United, which will care for the sculptures through their lifetime. Lincoln Financial Group is also a major sponsor of the project.

“We wanted this to be a lasting legacy,” Walters said. There are three different sizes of sculptures, and the project was inspired by similar public art projects in Toledo, Ohio, and Louisville, Ky. IPFW’s event merged the public art concept with the city’s burgeoning trail system, Stone said.

“This is just the tips of the iceberg” for the university’s celebrations for its anniversary, Walters said. The 2014-2015 school year marks IPFW’s 50th academic year on its campus on Coliseum Boulevard, and the university wanted to mark the anniversary in a big and lasting way. The sculptures range from 6 feet to 25 feet tall. Local schoolchildren also designed and created 50 recycled bicycles that will be attached to the Sculpture with Purpose racks.

Local sculptors include Cary Shafer; Bob Kiel (who has five pieces in the project); George Morrison (four sculptures) and Greg Mendez (who also has four pieces). The first of the 50 sculptures is already in place: those wavy overhead lights at the southeast corner of Freimann Square were introduced to kick off the fundraising campaign. Known as “Confluence,” the piece was created by the Design Collaborative.

“It was very interesting (to see) who wanted to be involved,” Stone said. “People are very excited about the idea of changing the face of downtown.”

First appeared in the May 2014 issue of Fort Wayne Monthly.


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