GRANITE FALLS – What’s that going down the streets of Granite Falls on three wheels, with a big white box out front and the tinkling of a bell? This is the Granite Area Arts Council’s newest idea to bring art into the community – the Artcycle. The imaginative art adventure on wheels debuted last September at Squid Fest and will now be seen all over the place to bring fun and easy art projects to the young masses.
“You can’t help but attract attention,” said Tamara Isfeld, arts council chair, teacher and artist. She also had the honor of releasing the Artcycle for her first ride.
Drawing attention to art is the goal.
The idea came from brainstorming sessions between members of the arts council. The GAAC has called 807 Prentice Street in Granite Falls home for about a decade, but the arts council and its gallery can still be a bit of a mystery to some in the community. The hope is that the Artcycle will clear some of that mystery and make people more comfortable coming to GAAC and participating in its programming.
“He brings the art into the community instead of bringing them to you,” said Dani Prados, GAAC board member and new Central Arts Ambassador for the Southwest Minnesota Art Council. She was also Granite Falls’ inaugural Artist-in-Residence in 2021. “It’s not really scary if someone stops on their bike and says, ‘Hey, you wanna do art? “
GAAC was able to secure a grant from the Southwest Minnesota Art Council to purchase the bike from Icicle Tricycles. Instead of ice cream, however, the large box on the front contains art supplies. The bright red color of the bike is also hard to miss.
“It’s fun,” Isfeld said. “There is something good in this box.”
There are usually markers, watercolors, chalk pastels, and other basic art supplies that won’t do much mess and are easy to clean. The Artcycle will also provide materials for simple projects that will hopefully inspire those who participate.
The Artcycle is aimed at children and the projects will be easy to complete, short and fun. The GAAC wants to ensure that children have access to art throughout the year, including during the summer holidays.
“Art is an integral part of life and should not be neglected,” said Prados. “It’s not a luxury item. It’s our way of expressing ourselves, our identity.”
Art is also a great way to bring people together, regardless of their background or artistic ability. It can also be a way to inspire people to get involved in the community in other ways, including helping to create the next generation of leaders.
“You can mingle with a bunch of different people and it feels good,” Isfeld said. “The rules are ‘be creative’.”
The Artcycle will be a mobile sponsorship for the GAAC and its gallery. The board wants people to feel welcome and comfortable in the gallery and to participate in its events, exhibitions and other programs. The Board of Directors hopes that the Artcycle will be a bridge between the community and the GAAC.
“Just like a flagship but more on a bike than on a boat,” Prados said. “It’s having a visible presence in the community, reminding them that we are here.”
If the cycle becomes as successful as the council dreams, there could still be a chance to expand the program to more bikes or go further than around Granite Falls. The Artcycle is a tangible snapshot of GAAC’s mission statement, and the board wants to continue to put that statement into practice from the seat of the bike and beyond.
“The organization’s slogan is ‘building community through art,'” Prados said. “Everything we do serves that goal. We try to attack that goal from as many angles as possible.”
2022 is the Artcycle’s inaugural season and the council plans to roll it out to various community events in addition to making stops at parks and other gathering places. Isfeld and Prados hope that the community will come to meet him.
“Stay tuned. It’s just begun,” Prados said. “Keep your eyes peeled for Artcycle sightings.”