Cyclists are everywhere in Maine — on the roads, on the trails and, throughout May, in the gallery.
In honor of National Bike Month, Space Gallery in Portland is hosting a participant-generated exhibition and a series of events focused on biking in Maine. But since this is Space, expect the exhibit and the events to be slightly quirky.
As Space Gallery associate director Jenny Dougherty writes in a monthly letter to gallery members: “Cyclists tend to be the fearless, outside-the-box thinkers among us and it is in this spirit that we open the gallery to experimentation and exchange.”
“It does take a certain level of fearlessness to be biking in any urban area, because it can be dangerous,” Dougherty said when reached by phone. “By ‘out-of-the-box thinker,’ I mean someone who’s willing to get on their bike in December when it’s freezing cold.”
But as Dougherty and countless other cyclists can attest, those who get around by bike experience the world differently than those who are stuck in a car.
“We’re tapping into the experience you have on your bike as opposed to being in your car,” Dougherty said. “You’re sensing smells and sounds much more so than in a car. You may see a friend and be able to stop and talk to them. It’s a much more enriched experience.”
The exhibition, “Seek Alt. Routes: Recording Bicycle-Powered Experiences,” opened last week during the First Friday Art Walk, and is up through June 1. The show invites bicycle enthusiasts to contribute photos, videos and audio clips from their rides to be featured in the gallery.
“The spirit of this show is more of a field recording, scientific experiment than a fine-art exhibition,” Dougherty said.
Another part of the show features objects — from notes to scraps of fabric — found while on a bike. In addition, cyclists can add their personal bike routes to two maps on display in the gallery.
“It feels like biking is kind of at a critical point where it’s fun but also important,” said Nat May, executive director of Space. “There are a lot of different ways people can approach it. Some people are commuters, some are riding for exercise.”
On Saturday afternoon, crafty bikers can head to the gallery and learn how to make a fabric bag that can attach to the handlebar or crossbar of a bike. Betsy Sheintaub of Bobbin Studio will teach basic sewing and construction techniques, and will supply materials and sewing machines for participants to use.
After the workshop, Sam Shupe, a bicycle historian and doctoral candidate at Boston University, will present “A Visual History of Biking in Maine.” Shupe will share old photos and advertisements, and talk about biking’s early history in the state and the nation.
In his talk, he’ll discuss the fact that noted Portland architect John Calvin Stevens was an avid bicycle enthusiast.
“(Stevens) used it for his business, and used the bicycle to get around,” Shupe said. “He saw it as the best way to travel and be immersed in your environment.”
The following Saturday, Maine College of Art student Pilar Nadal will be at the Deering Oaks Farmers Market with a printmaking studio she carts around on her bike. Those strolling through the market will be invited to create postcards on her small relief press.
The festivities wrap up on May 26 with the Alley Cat Bike Race and After Party. Organized by Nick Reddy and Steve Tesh, the race is “not for the faint of heart,” according to May.
“To be honest, I’m not sure where they’re going to go,” May said. “But it has an element of a scavenger hunt and an obstacle course with designated checkpoints. It’s going to get people to ride fast and furious all around town.”
The route won’t be announced until the start of the event, and because it includes the element of danger that comes with any ride in the city, those who participate will do so at their own risk.
That evening, Space will host a race after-party, where prizes will be handed out to the winners. In addition to dance music, the party will feature a new bike-themed beer from Bunker Brewing Co.
While the Bike Month events are varied, they all have one goal, according to May: “We want to remind people that it’s fun to ride your bike.”
Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at: