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Downtown gains artwork-bike rack mix

– Beth Meyer stood outside the Wells Fargo building at Wayne and Calhoun streets and watched curiously as workers, hauling a truck full of metal sculptures, bolted a big pig made out of red pipes into the sidewalk.

“I love seeing different things,” she said. “I like the colors.”

But she wasn’t sure what was going on.

A lot of people will be experiencing the same surprise in coming weeks as 50 sculptures start popping up around town as part of Sculpture With Purpose, an event introducing art around town and marking the 50th anniversary of the establishment of IPFW.

The sculptures, some as tall as 20 feet, are meant to serve as touchable art and bike racks around the city.

The project began about three years ago when IPFW started pondering ways to mark its anniversary, project manager Ruth Stone said. For its 40th anniversary, painted mastodons were put on display around the city, but those displays were temporary.

The university looked at the city, Stone said, noted the infrastructure of bike paths and growing popularity of cycling and the push for public art and decided to combine the two, creating art that could serve as bike racks.

One sculpture was erected at Freimann Square in 2012 and another was installed on Main Street in March.

Installations began in earnest Wednesday, with five being put in place downtown. Four more will be installed Friday. By May 17, there will be 32 new sculptures downtown, 12 on the IPFW campus and six others around town.

It didn’t take long for the works to start generating smiles.

“Very nice,” said Dave Sholl, an architect who watched as one sculpture was installed. “Visit any downtown that’s lively and they have sculptures all over town. Go to Kalamazoo or Grand Rapids,” he said.

“This is so cool,” said Doug Adelsperger, who watched as workers with Flatlanders Sculpture Supply of Michigan lugged a 150-pound sculpture into place in front of Jimmy John’s at Calhoun and Wayne streets. “It’s another neat thing for downtown.”

Meanwhile, the bicycle delivery guys for Jimmy John’s seemed as excited as anyone: Another bicycle rack in front of the store.

“Awesome,” one worker said.

“It’s nice when you get young people excited about downtown,” said Tom Cain, an urban designer for the city who was directing the installation crew around town, telling them where to mount the sculptures.

“It’s been a huge amount of work to get this done,” Cain said. “A lot of thought went into this,” ranging from choosing the sculptures to deciding where to install them.

The sculptures, which cost a total of $400,000, were picked from among 160 proposals by 36 artists from around the country.

The final 50 sculptures were designed by 23 artists from seven states – Indiana, California, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri and Michigan.

The sculptures, sponsored by Fort Wayne businesses, will be dedicated to the city during a ceremony at 11:30 a.m. May 17.

fgray@jg.net

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