How refreshing it is to see a business group make a commitment to placing public art around town. That’s exactly what the Montpelier Downtown Community Association has done with the eco-conscious SculptCycle — an outdoor sculpture show that put 20 works made from, yes, recycled bicycle parts all over the capital city’s downtown district this summer. The partnership among the business community, sponsors and artists aimed to promote the reduction of CO2 emissions “by creating art that has a positive environmental impact,” according to the SculptCycle website. No word on how successful that was, but the auxiliary programming sounds like fun, ranging from a helmet-decorating workshop at The ReStore to a bicycle-themed movie series at The Savoy Theater to a number of bike rides.
Now, MDCA is buying “Whirling Dervishes” by local sculptor/jewelry maker Lochlin Smith. Until the group decides on its permanent site, the sculpture — comprising three tall poles with spinning bike wheels — will remain on the roundabout in front of The Lazy Pear Gallery on Main Street. “As a long-range goal, it would be nice to build up Montpelier’s inventory of public art,” says Rob Hitzig, co-owner of the Lazy Pear and vice president of the MDCA. He says the association wanted to see how SculptCycle played out this year before planning another one. Which means it probably won’t be back next summer, but might in 2010. After all, he notes, “The community loved it.”
“Whirling Dervishes” is the second Smith sculpture to wind up with the City of Montpelier — he and local architect Ward Joyce made the metal-and-stone work that extends from the Shoe Horn building over the North Branch River. The pair is credited with a second SculptCycle piece this summer, too — a 600-pound rectangle of crushed bicycle parts, appropriately titled “Squashed Bikes.”
What will happen to the other 19 sculptures? They’re available for sale to the public — that is, through a silent auction that’s going on right now, and a live auction at the T.W. Wood Gallery on October 4 that also sounds like quite the to-do. Vermont Public Radio personality/storyteller Willem Lang will play auctioneer; pianist Michael Arnowitt will perform, including a specially written piece called “Bumpy Ride”; the SculptCycle 2008 winner of the People’s Choice Award will be announced (“We’re still collecting ballots,” says Hitzig); and, of course, refreshments will be served by the nearby New England Culinary Institute. Anyone who rides their bike up that hill to Vermont College deserves extra desserts.