Biking and Art in the Twin Cities: An Exploration

Pretty much exactly a month ago, I moved to the greatest city in the United States. You wouldn’t see it if you weren’t looking or have bought into the notion that West Coast is Best Coast or East Coast is where the smarty pants are.

I moved to Minneapolis.

The Minneapolis Skyline from the modern art museum, the Walker.

I moved to a city where the skyscrapers never go above 800 feet and stay densely packed. I moved to a city that celebrates its Midwestern and Nordic roots maybe a little too much.  (But let’s be real, can you ever love lingonberry jam and cheese curds too much?) I moved to one of the best cities to bike in and also see world class art. All while being able to (mostly) afford rent and high quality avocado toast.

This post was inspired by ArtCrank, a pop up gallery that does shows of bicycle focused around the US and some in Europe. It was hosted at the Fulton production brewing facility, again one of the things to love about the Twin Cities. I biked to the arts district, on my bike I paid too much to seem more hip. And, as with anyone who is in love with a place and its culture, loved the show. They hung up art next to kegs of locally made and loved beer. Art was made by women, by emerging artists and also the star of the MN Proud art world, Adam Turman.

The first art work, by Fulton’s kegs.

It felt enjoyably haphazard and casual, the crowds sweating next to each other in spandex or the fabric of choice of the local hipsters, crinkled linen. I felt I belonged because I biked there with my own two chubby but well-intentioned legs who always think they are stronger than they are.

The show made me think about  how the convergence of biking, Midwestern stubbornness, progressiveness and a low cost of living make for a self sustaining biking and arts culture here. There were hundreds at that event, who were excited for the free bike valet and relatively cheap top-notch beer. And reading the artists’ statements only validated it. They kept talking about the validation of biking on 30 pound pieces of metal and rubber in all extreme weather. It’s a commitment, just like art making.

This was only reinforced by my trip to the social free night at the art museum I used to intern at, Mia. Being new to this city, I went to a pre-game at one of the best breweries around, Surly. I joined the Joyful Riders, who do a monthly community ride at a very accessible speed. They fixed my seat, we had beer, we biked 4 miles to the event and went to the monthly free late night at the museum. I talked to a couple people about why they loved biking, and it was the same reasons that people often mention for art making.

Artcrank again at Mia

“I have to slow down and really think in order to get where I need to be.”

“I see things differently than I normally do.”

“I get to meet cool people.”

So, when I talked to someone who works a local music venue that shares space with a bike shop, the Warming House, I found out that this also extends into the music world. It’s like people are naturally bringing two worlds together in a natural and organic way.

I’ve begun even to experience this wonderful feeling. My and my underexercised legs decided it was an amazing idea to bike from Saint Paul to my Minneapolis apartment, a 8 mile bike ride on a slow incline. I was sweaty, sticky and in low grade pain by the end of my poorly planned ride. But I also felt connected, free and healthy.

A sign of the long commitment to a trail.

I had brought my film camera, and kept stopping to take pictures of details of my path that I’d never see in a car or while walking. So in that, I could see why all these artists were basing at least some of their income on the convergence of these two disparate things.

All in all, I love the Cities and hope to keep writing about art, culture and biking.

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