Jul. 27—GRANITE FALLS
— What is that coming down the streets of Granite Falls on three wheels, with a big white box in front and the jingle of a bell? It is the
Granite Area Arts Council's
newest notion to bring art into the community — the Artcycle. The imaginative art venture on wheels had its debut ride last September, during Squid Fest, and will now be seen out and about bringing fun and easy art projects to the young masses.
"You can't help but draw attention," said Tamara Isfeld, president of the art council, teacher and artist. She also had the honor of taking the Artcycle out for its first spin.
Drawing attention to art is the goal.
The idea came from brainstorming sessions among the art council members. The GAAC has called 807 Prentice Street in Granite Falls home for about a decade, but the art council and its gallery can still be a bit of mystery to some in the community. The hope is the Artcycle will erase some of that mystery and make people more comfortable coming to the GAAC and participating in its programming.
"It is bringing art into the community instead of having them come to you," said Dani Prados, GAAC board member and the Southwest Minnesota Art Council's new central arts ambassador. She was also Granite Falls' inaugural artist in residency in 2021. "It's not really scary if someone pulls up on a bike and says 'Hey, you want to do some art?' "
The GAAC was able to secure a grant from the Southwest Minnesota Art Council to purchase the bike from Icicle Tricycles. Instead of ice cream, though, the large box on the front holds art supplies. The bike's bright red color is also hard to miss.
"It feels fun," Isfeld said. "There is something good in that box."
There are usually markers, watercolors, chalk pastels and other elementary art supplies that won't make much of a mess and are easy to clean up. The Artcycle will also provide materials needed for simple projects that will hopefully inspire those who take part.
The Artcycle is geared toward children and the projects will be easy to do, short and fun. The GAAC wants to make sure children have access to art throughout the year, including during summer break.
"Art is an integral part of life and it shouldn't be disregarded," Prados said. "It isn't a luxury item. It is how we express ourselves, our identity."
Art is also a great way to bring people, no matter their backgrounds or artistic abilities, together. Doing so can also be a way to entice people to be involved in the community in other ways, including helping to create the next generation of leaders.
"You can mix with a bunch of different people and it feels good," Isfeld said. "The rules are 'you be creative.'"
The Artcycle will be a mobile endorsement for the GAAC and its gallery. The council wants people to feel welcome and comfortable in the gallery and taking part in its events, exhibits and other programs. The board hopes the Artcycle will be a bridge between the community and the GAAC.
"Just like a flagship but more cycle than ship," Prados said. "It is having a visible presence in the community, reminding them we are here."
If the cycle becomes as successful as the council dreams it will, there could always be the chance of expanding the program to more bikes or going further afield than just around Granite Falls. The Artcycle is a tangible snapshot of the GAAC's mission statement, and the council wants to continue acting out that statement form the seat of the bike and beyond.
"The tagline of the organization is 'to build community through art,' " Prados said. "Everything we do serves that purpose. We try to attack that goal from as many angles as possible."
2022 is the Artcycle's inaugural season and the council plans to deploy it to various community events in addition to making stops at parks and other gathering places. Isfeld and Prados hope the community comes out to meet it.
"Stay tuned. It is just getting started," Prados said. "Keep your eyes peeled for Artcycle sightings."