The Hippo


May 30, 2020








Courtesy photo.

Big Bicycle Project

Learn more at, where there will soon be details and a map on where to find the sculptures.

The Big Bicycle Project
Concord to be decorated with bicycle-part art

By Kelly Sennott

 The three bird sculptures that are part of Concord’s Big Bicycle Project were designed by preschoolers. They stand on metal rods and sport gear eyeballs, tire bellies and kickstand feathers. 

Jen Ensign, executive director of Emerson School for Preschoolers, is used to being surprised by the capabilities of 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds, but she knows not everyone is. It’s one of the reasons she wanted to get her kids involved with the city’s public art project, headed by the Kimball Jenkins School of Art and sponsored by the Mill Brook Gallery & Sculpture Garden. 
“I’ve been thinking about ways to have our school involved with the community. We’re deeply involved with art at the school, and I thought it would be an exciting opportunity for kids to create something that would be on display downtown,” Ensign said via phone. “We are constantly inspired to see what children bring to us on a daily basis, and giving them an opportunity like this would allow others to have insight into their capabilities.”
Their project is one of a dozen created with bicycle parts by community members that will be placed in spots designated for outdoor art within the newly designed Concord streetscape. Submissions were due by April 1, and bikes were dropped off by May 3. Kimball Jenkins Executive Director Ryan Linehan plans to install soon, so that sculptures decorate downtown mid-May through October.
The idea for the Big Bicycle Project started with Pam Tarbell, owner of the Mill Brook Gallery & Sculpture Garden, who’d seen something similar executed in Chicago during a visit years ago. She thought the concept of the sculptures seemed relatable — almost everyone can remember riding a bike — and so she shared the thought with Linehan a year ago. 
“Concord already has some public art, and some historic art, but this is another art form that people can enjoy, and it’s recognizable,” Tarbell said via phone. 
At the time, Linehan was wrapping up the school’s first public art installation, the Haley Rae Martin Mural, which decorates the side of the Main Street CVS. Reception for that mural has been enormously positive, and so he jumped on this idea too.
Most of the pieces dropped off at Kimball Jenkins still resembled bicycles. One was painted sky blue and sported a bouquet of flowers in its front basket. Another held a wire sculpture of a rider with long, flowing hair, and a license plate labeled “PHANTOM BICYCLE COMMUTER.” The littlest bike was painted gold. 
Inside one of the buildings was a project Kimball Jenkins staff had been working on — a bicycle-riding, glove-wearing Tyrannosaurus rex pool toy towing a basket full of smaller dinosaurs. (“They had the hardest time getting its arms to reach. Have you ever seen a T. Rex with long arms?” Linehan said.)
The goal was to make this a community-wide initiative, and to an extent, it’s happened; Ensign said her staff used the opportunity to incorporate the sculpture into their curriculum, which this spring has been all about birds. Kids created the pieces by assembling bicycle parts, courtesy of Kimball Jenkins, on classroom tables and all 51 voted on the final designs, which were then melded together by one student’s dad. Red River Theatres was planning a bicycle-themed screening, details still in the works. 
At the time of his interview, Linehan was still waiting for the final approval from the city, but he was hopeful and happy with how Concord has come around to the idea of public art. He has students working on another mural that will soon decorate the Ralph Pill building, visible from the highway. 
“I think Concord’s ready to embrace some more public art,” Linehan said. 

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