May 09, 2011 10:24PM
● By Anonymous
Although I've known about it for quite some time, this year is the first that I attended the Kinetic Sculpture Race in Baltimore, sponsored by the American Visionary Art Museum. This is one of the events that makes me realize what makes Charm City so - well - charming. It consists of pedal-powered movable art making a trek of 15 miles through the streets of the city. Not only is it an art event, but it is also a cycling event, with dozens of spectators, many dressed in costume, following the race on bikes, unicycles, tricycles and even on foot.
I first caught up with the race in Canton, where competitors were required to launch their creations into the Bay and complete a circular route of about 200 feet. It's beyond interesting to see a 10-foot long caterpillar being pedaled slowly into the water -- almost like Baltimore's own version of Mardi Gras. Did I mention that the caterpillar was accompanied by a pit crew dressed like Alice in Wonderland characters and it was smoking a hookah pipe? Another interesting water entry was made by the Claw Machine, which looked like an overgrown version of the arcade staple. It earned the coveted Golden Flipper Award for pretty much falling over sideways when it touched the boat ramp.
After much merriment in Canton, and a stop at an amazing ice cream vendor for a scoop a salty caramel, a friend and I followed the race up to Patterson Park. In the park, the sculpture pedalers were charged with the task of navigating their creations through sand and mud.
The mud was, of course, located on an uphill, with the pit starting with a large speed bump. Most pedalers got running starts, and many even got pushes from their costumed pit crews. However, a lot of them still got stuck. It was great to cheer on the perseverance as some riders kept pedaling and pedaling and were able to clear themselves from the muck. This was a necessity for those competing for the ACE Award, which required them to make it through the entire course without assistance.
As the sculptures headed back to the Visionary Art Museum, I made my way to Pimlico for some Derby watching and a concert by the Plain White Tees. An interesting day, indeed.
The Kinetic Sculpture Race is an annual event, occurring in May each year. Find out more, and start designing your sculpture now.