Like a gallery needs a bicycle

For the seventh year in a row, Minneapolitans are celebrating their favorite thing through art.

Visitors browse the bike art installation during the seventh annual Bike Art on Friday at Altered Esthetics in Northeast Minneapolis.

Blake Leigh

Visitors browse the bike art installation during the seventh annual Bike Art on Friday at Altered Esthetics in Northeast Minneapolis.

Sarah Harper


What: Bike Art VII

When: Now until June 28

Where: Altered Esthetics, 1224 Quincy St. NE, Minneapolis

   Cost: Free


If you compressed every stereotype about the city of Minneapolis into a single room, it might look something like the current exhibit at Altered

The cozy, unpolished space features a group of works all devoted to our city’s favorite sport, leisure activity and method of getting from Bar A to  Bar B — the bicycle.

The degree to which Minnesotans boast their state’s healthy relationship with the two-wheeler can get repetitive, but there’s nothing one-note about this inclusive exhibit, which has hit our fair Twin Cities every June for the last seven years.

“This is our way to celebrate summer, cycling and getting outdoors,” said Amber White, the group exhibitions director at the gallery, which is located in the Q.arma Building in the Northeast neighborhood of Minneapolis.

Marnie Erpestad, who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2005 with a major in art, took a black-and-white photo of the marks her studded tires made on her snow-covered driveway.

“Winter biking for the first time was liberating. It reminded me of one of the big things I love about bikes — you can go wherever you want whenever you want,” she said. Erpestad’ entered her art into the low-key Altered Esthetics show for the first time in 2008.

“I came out of getting my bachelor in arts at the U of M thinking that earning gallery spaces had to be super serious,” she said.

In a city like Minneapolis, there’s no trouble finding artists like Erpestad who dig bikes. White and her crew of volunteers put out open calls everywhere, physically and digitally.

“We plaster the town with our fliers,” White said.

They receive works from artists of all calibers, from the recently graduated to the working pros. They admit as many artworks as they can as long as they match the theme of the show.

Due to this openness, Bike Art VII feels like an amateur hour, with sloppy and contrived artworks dotting the collection. A notable exception is Geoff Bush’s multilayered sculpture, made with recycled shipping pallets and bike tires. His sculpture was inspired by Chinese philosophy and accompanied by a poem that his son-in-law wrote.

“You have to get really close to read it. You have to engage,” Bush said.

In spite of some of the lame art, this show is no hoax on spokes: The degree to which everyone is welcome is one of Altered Esthetics’ biggest strengths. This gallery knows that it’s not the Walker Art Center. The humble, homegrown art they hang in their space is a testament to their commitment to growth.

“Our mission is to expand the arts community as much as possible and be as welcoming and supportive of artists, no matter what stage of
their career,” White said.