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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Jared Geisman, left, Alan Knaggs and Ian Thompson of Flatlanders Sculpture Supply of Blissfield, Mich., install "Piggy," a metal bike rack sculpture by Benjamin Powers on Wayne Street. Five bike racks, part of IPFW's Sculpture With A Purpose project were installed downtown Wednesday, with more to follow.

Bike-rack sculptures on the rise

Thompson, Knaggs and Geisman muscle "Picture Yourself," a 200-pound bike rack, into position in front of the downtown Hilton.

The installation of 50 sculptures that are meant to double as bike racks started in earnest on Wednesday, with five of the sculptures being installed downtown.

Four more sculptures will be installed on Friday, and by May 17, all 50 works are to be installed.

The project, called Sculpture With Purpose, is meant to serve a dual purpose, marking IPFW's 50th anniversary and introducing public art around the community, said Ruth Stone, project manager.

The project was launched three years ago, and in 2012 a call for sculpture proposals was sent out nationally.

In all, 36 artists from around the country submitted 160 proposals, including drawings. Those designs were winnowed down to 70, and artists submitted scale models of their works. Local sponsors were then allowed to choose a sculpture that they were willing to finance.

The sculptures came from 23 artists in seven states, including California, Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan.

In all, the artwork will cost about $400,000, Stone said.

When all the sculptures are in place, 12 will be on the IPFW campus, 32 will be downtown and the other six will be scattered around town.

While the sculptures are meant to serve as bike racks and art that you can touch, they are a far cry from the green posts that have been installed around downtown in the last few years. The sculptures average around 6 feet tall with the tallest measuring 20 feet, Stone said.

The concept started when IPFW started considering ways to mark its 50th anniversary. For the school's 40th anniversary, painted mastodons were put on display around the city, but those displays were temporary.

School officials looked at the growing popularity of bike trails and cycling in the community and a push toward public art and decided to combine the two, creating bike rack sculptures, Stone said.