Art Beat: Bike Art And Paper Mills

Oct 17, 2019

Detail of "Vicksburg Mill"
Credit Natalya Critchley

Bike Friendly Kalamazoo recently unveiled its first public Bike Art Prize competition and awarded $1,750 in cash prizes. A committee with representatives of local art councils, organizations, and local governments conducted the juried selection process.


The winning entries were announced in September 2019 in Vicksburg and will be displayed on banners mounted on public lamp poles and in other prominent places to promote a bike-friendly community.

John Kern was the chairman of the Bike Art Competition. He’s also the director of the Prairie Ronde Artist Residency at the Vicksburg Mill in Vicksburg.

"Two Wheels. Infinite Adventures."
Credit Sam Bower

“The requirements for the art were to create something in the realm of graphic design, something that could be potentially displayed,” Kern says. “We were looking for art that was representative of the joy of bicycling, the freedom that comes from being on two wheels and not having any motorized element involved, and really just that celebration of movement and freedom and joy that you experience when you bicycle.”

The $1,000 first prize was awarded to Sam Bower for “Two Wheels. Infinite Adventures.” The second prize of $500 for “Fall Ride” went to Misty Blake, who also won the "People's Choice" award. Sandra Gilman won the third-place prize of $250 for “Kalamazoo County Silent Observer Bike Safe.”

In his other role, Kern oversees the Prairie Ronde Artist Residency in Vicksburg, in the 420,000-square-foot former Lee Paper Company Mill on 120 acres. Artists are given access to the paper mill and surrounding land to inspire their work.

“I was approached to be the chair of the Bike Art Prize competition because of my activities with the Prairie Ronde Artist Residency,” Kern says. “We are a relatively new artist residency affiliated with the parent organization that I work with, which is Vicksburg Mill. We are in the process of rehabilitating the mill, where operations ceased in 2001. It was falling into a dilapidated state, so the organization that I work with, Paper City Development, became engaged with this rehabilitation process.”

Resident artists have included painters, writers, filmmakers, and musicians. The current resident artist is Cindy Steiler, a multi-disciplinary artist and a photographer, whose work will be on exhibit along with work by artist Natalya Critchley, from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m., October 19, at the corner of 105 South Main and 101 East Prairie in Vicksburg. The exhibit will include children’s activities and a presentation by Claudio Mendoza about Venezuela from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

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