Artist Bike Racks Come To Stetson, Sound

Allan Appel PhotoTwo three-foot-high books made of purple and orange stainless steel have been added to Stetson Branch Library’s collection. 

You can’t take them out. Ever.

They form a two-piece bike rack configured to look like a book opened on the left, and closed, as if it has just been finished, on the right.

They are the most recent artistic bike rack installations to appear in town. Their progenitor, Ben Green (pictured), last year headed a team of Yale students and area artists including longtime Creative Arts Workshop sculpture teacher Ann Lehman. Together they designed, fabricated, and installed the mixed-vegetable (broccoli, carrot, squash) rack in front of Claire’s Corner Copia at Chapel and College.

This week Green, who recently graduated from Yale, is back with two more sculpted and painted stainless steel racks that flatter two new locations in town.

He coordinated both projects through the city’s transportation department, where Green pursued his interest in bike rack art and technology through Yale-provided fellowships

2 Racks = About 5 Bikes

The bookish bike racks behind the Stetson Branch Library on Dixwell Avenue will hold approximately five bikes, Green said as Jay Zacks of Concrete Creations installed the last of the eight anchoring lag bolts.

A rushing passerby who parked her car and went to the door of the Stetson library Thursday pronounced the racks cute. She predicted they will attract more bicycle-riding patrons to the branch.

A second rack, painted navy blue and white and in the shape of a sailboat, was headed for the Sound School (a maritime-themed institution with official navy blue and white colors) for installation later Thursday.

Both racks are paid for through a mayoral arts grant—about $1,200—supplemented by the labors of love of Ann and Eric Lehman and Yale undergraduates Douglas Wong and Ben VanBuren, among others.

Green said that community activist Lee Cruz suggested both locations. He recommended Stetson because its longtime librarian Diane Pettaway Brown has already spearheaded two large public murals at Stetson. And the Sound School because it’s really needed there, said Green.

Green said that Brown suggested purple and orange because “they would complement the public art.”

Brown also suggested the rear location for the bike rack because the Dixwell side is more of a drive-by entrance. People congregate more around the back door.

While the design—books for a library and a boat for a maritime-focused school—are fairly obvious, Green called the designs cooler than you might think at first glance. The book, or rack, on the left, for example, might be “read” as a book spread open from the front, or from the back.

The one on the right is a closed book with the back cover slightly raised. Does that show a book well loved and read? Or one that was laid down hastily and not closed with care?

“Depends on how you visualize,” he said.

Better Paint

Within months of installation outside Claire’s, paint was chipping off the mixed-vegetable rack due in part to the heavy wear and tear. The steel tubes that make up the books and boat racks are painted with Rust-Oleum , a more durable and protective paint appropriate for being in the elements.

In the coming weeks the vegetable rack will also be taken down and coated with the more chip-resistant paint.

A math and physics major, Green will spend the summer studying the application of meta-data for urban policy at the University of Chicago before he returns to school full-time in the fall as a graduate student in applied math at Harvard. He plans to stay involved in the bike rack project, mentoring from afar, as his younger collaborators apply for more grants and create more racks.

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posted by: Jim Travers on May 23, 2014  6:57pm

Way to go Ben!  You will leave your mark on this city in so many ways.  Congrats on yet another successful project.

posted by: Bill Saunders on May 23, 2014  7:44pm

Oh, Railings…..