West Chicago, Illinois: December 9, 2013 -- A call for artists by the West Chicago Cultural Arts Commission for its 2014 Community Banner Art project dovetails with a historical exhibit planned to debut at the City Museum in early spring. Both public exhibits are themed, The (Bi)Cycle of Life, and focus on the introduction and evolution of cycling. Additionally, the play on words lends itself to interpretations on the broader theme of life cycles. Just as the wheels of a bicycle continue to roll, so do the seasons and time continue to turn.
Since their introduction in Europe in the 1800s, bicycles have provided a way for people to travel that directly connects them to nature. Quicker than walking and less cumbersome than driving, bikes have added speed to transportation and allow an individual to get around with ease. Today, bicycles are still used for transportation, recreation, sport, and even for work by police officers and bike messengers; and now they are being celebrated in West Chicago with these two upcoming public exhibits
The (Bi)Cycle of Life at the City Museum
From a historical perspective, bicycling enjoyed a "golden age" in the 1890s, with many clubs and organizations popping up throughout the country. These "Wheelman" clubs sponsored road races, parades and other community events. One such race took place at a significant event in Turner Junction, Illinois, the informal nickname for the Town of Turner, on July 4, 1895. The small midwestern community was turning a page in its own history by welcoming its new name, West Chicago, Illinois. The name change was part of an effort to attract industry and help draw prospective factory owners to invest in the community. A photograph maintained at the West Chicago City Museum commemorates a 5 1/2 mile race that took place on this date.
Since those early days of bicycling history, bikes have remained an important part of recreational life in West Chicago, as the Illinois Prairie Path cuts through the city's downtown. This direct link to nature provides bicyclists a great path in and out of town through some of the most scenic areas of the city. Museum Director and Curator Sara Phalen explained the significance of both exhibits, " Most people can remember the first time they rode a bike, learned or taught a child how to ride without training wheels, and the feeling of freedom those pedals provided. Bicycles provide new sensations as riders speed down hills or travel over bumpy passes. Traveling along the Prairie Path also allows bikers a way into the changing seasons that can bring the beautiful scenery nature can provide to our busy lives."
The (Bi) Cycle of Life Community Art Banners on Main Street
Beginning in May, colorful banners depicting original works of art on the theme of The (Bi)Cycle of Life, will be on display along Main Street in downtown West Chicago. A current call for artists to contribute their designs is underway. Accomplished and emerging artists, with a connection to the City of West Chicago, (either through residence, work or school), or currently living in the Chicagoland area are invited to submit digital files of original art for consideration for the Community Art Banner Project. All media are welcome, with no limitation to technique or subject matter, as long as the theme revolves around The (Bi)Cycle of Life. Entries must be received by February 1, 2014. An independent juror not affiliated with the West Chicago Cultural Arts Commission will select up to 10 works of art. Each winning design will be reproduced and featured in the 2014 exhibition. Artists selected will receive credit on both banner and in printed materials related to the exhibition. Additionally, they will be asked to submit a brief statement about the inspiration for the select piece for press use. A reception honoring the selected artists will take place at Gallery 200 in downtown West Chicago during the annual Blooming Fest event on Saturday, May 17, 2014. During the run of the exhibit, the general public will be invited to vote for an artist/banner to receive a People's Choice Award. Submission details, and an online application is available at www.westchicago.org under Forms. For questions, artists may contact Sara Phalen at (630) 231-3376.
"We are excited about both upcoming opportunities to engage residents and visitors with The (Bi)Cycle of Life, and to discover artists' interpretations on this prolific theme. Bicycling brings enjoyment to all ages in all seasons of the year and in all seasons of life. The possibilities for creative application are endless," said Phalen.