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Nov. 15, 2011
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SRU art majors create stylish bicycle racks

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Who says bike racks have to be boring. Two Slippery Rock University art majors have constructed stylish bicycle racks from recycled bicycle frames. Both racks will be rolled into place today in front of Bailey Library and the Robert M. Macoskey Center for Sustainable Systems Education and Research.
      Eli Blasko and Scot Calvert, both of Mercer, spent 50 hours cutting and welding the racks together even though they received no class credit. Sean Macmillan, SRU associate professor of art, served as project adviser. The project combined art, function and sustainability.
       “I thought the idea was fantastic because I often use themes of environmental ethics in my work, or create work the questions the role of environment and its importance to people today,” Blasko said. “The project is a great fusion of sustainable practice and art-making, and hopefully people who see or use the racks will think about ‘green’ practices, if only for a brief moment. I think even this small moment of reflection would mean the project has served its purpose.”
      I hope people enjoy them. It was fun making the bike rack, and I definitely got much better at welding working on the project,” Calvert said.
       Bicycles are a great way to zip around campus and reduce reliance on emission-producing automobiles. The new racks will enable cyclists to lock their rides in style, and they support “Reaching for 2025 and Beyond,” the University’s strategic plan that champions sustainable design as good design.
       “I hope that people will use the racks, appreciate their unique designs and perhaps take a moment to reflect on their recycled nature,” Blasko said. “If this leads anyone to self-reflection about sustainability and green practices I would be enthralled, but I know its a lot to hope for when people are rushing past them on their way to class.”
          The project was funded through SRU’s Green Fund, which supports environmentally friendly campus projects. Alex Kopko, a 2011 SRU graduate, developed the idea before he graduated in May. The Green Fund allocated $2,874 for the rack project, which went into applying a protective green coating on the racks, Macmillan said.
       The bike frames used to construct the racks were donated from various bicycle shops that had old frames they were not using. Students cut and welded the frames into distinctive shapes.
       “There were many differences in the frames and small inconsistencies in size,” Blasko said. “I only found two frames of the particular style I used that were exactly the same dimensions. This created some minor difficulties in assembling the racks, but I thought the challenge was fun and the small differences added a nice quality to the final product; a quality that showed these are, in fact, created from recycled products.”
      Blasko said the project required extensive planning. He said he researched creative, unconventional bike racks online, looked up technical terms for the various pieces that make up bike frames and researched different styles of frames.
      “I did some preliminary sketching to get some ideas of general form and ended up with three designs that I thought would be visually interesting,” he said. “I then looked through the various recycled frames we had available to us and picked out about six that were of similar size and had the same frame design. After having the dimensions of the actual frames available to me, I scaled them down and built two different wooden models to see how they would engage the space. This allowed a great deal of playing around with the forms and thinking about the aesthetic quality of the rack as well as its utilitarian function.”
       Blasko said he selected a rack design that could hold eight bikes “but did not sacrifice its interesting visual qualities.”
         Calvert said his design is more formal and minimalist.
 “I felt like I didn't want to push some crazy design and instead utilized the shape and forms of the actual bicycle frames, stressing functionality more than anything,” he said. “My specific idea for my bike rack came from just working with the materials ­– old bike parts – and reconfiguring them until I reached the layout that I found most successful.”
       Calvert said he was pleased to recycle scrapped bicycle frames to create another object. “Found object/material artwork definitely has a sustainable or green connotation for sure, and some artists definitely seek out that quality for their art. I feel that is the goal for this project with recycling and renewing these materials.”
      Macmillan said Kopko collected a significant amount of frames. “Initially, it was difficult to recruit students because of the size and scale of the project,” he said.  “These had to be constructed outside of their regular classes and art majors are incredibly busy with their normal coursework.  The idea of having them permanently installed on campus was good motivation to recruit Scott and Eli.  Since this was a Green Fund Grant it made sense to build them out of recycled materials.”
       More than $30,000 in Green Fund projects has been approved for 2011-2012. Projects include a wind-powered, lake-aeration system; a greener campus project; a green chemistry symposium; and four electric meter projects to document exact energy usage.