May is bicycle month Pedals emerge following April showers

Artist John Martinson, right, arrived in Guttenberg with three welded steel bicycle sculptures on Monday, April 28, to participate in the Umbrella Arts group's reCycle Sculpture Project. (Press photo by Molly Moser)

By Molly Moser

The young but impactful Umbrella Arts group is once again making news as their reCycle Sculpture Project gains popularity. Many business owners are gearing up for this summer’s events by channeling their inner ‘cycle-angelo,’ building bicycle sculptures or displaying decorative bikes in their storefronts. 

Shepherd Gallery and Creativity Center, the Umbrella Arts group’s backbone organization, recently installed three such sculptures created by Galena artist John Martinson. Martinson’s work embodies the idea behind the reCycle project – using imagination to repurpose bicycles or parts, and engaging the community through public art. 

“We are thrilled to have John’s sculptures,” said Shepherd Gallery director Cindy Olsen. “We’ve been looking for a skilled metal sculptor for quite some time, and we hope to carry more of his work in the future.”

Martinson holds a degree in sociology and has studied art at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He and his wife moved to Galena, Ill., in 1979 to operate the Galena Blacksmith Shop and Gallery. In 1986 he opened his own studio, which has grown to become West Street Sculpture Park in Galena.

West Street Sculpture Park is home to over a dozen of Martinson’s welded steel sculptures, which include two 40-foot towers, a giant tinkertoy, and humorous assemblages scattered throughout the park’s two acres. Martinson’s studio is onsite, and the park is open dawn to dusk for free walking tours. 

The largest sculpture at Shepherd Gallery, constructed mainly of whole bicycles, towers at 13 feet in the gallery’s courtyard. A smaller sculpture of an old-fashioned bicycle emerging from a box of colorful bike fragments shows the artist’s capacity for melding seemingly random parts into a cohesive piece of artwork. Inside the gallery, an eight-foot structure made of rusted spokes, rims, seats, handlebars, and dangling chains illustrates the whimsical nature of deconstructed bicycle parts. 

Cycles have inspired Guttenberg Development and Tourism, which selected “Where the rubber meets the river,” as the theme for this year’s Stars and Stripes parade. The theme isn’t limited to bicycles, however, and participants are encouraged to think of clever ways to incorporate tires into their parade entries. One Guttenberg couple plans to ride their motorcycles in the parade. 

Umbrella Arts president Juanita Loven thanks RAGBRAI for inspiring the successful project. “During our travels, Russ and I have admired many such artistic efforts in other communities.    What a joy to see it happening right here in Guttenberg. This is only the beginning.” Loven said. “Thank you to the committee, businesses and art supporters for catching and implementing the ReCycle Bicycle Sculpture spirit.”

There is no cost to enter the reCycle sculpture project. To register or request information, please contact Shepherd Gallery and Creativity Center at 252-2787, or visit Entries will be accepted through June 1.

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