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ARTCRANK: Austin

April 24, 2014

Are you ready for ARTCRANK? Do you know what ARTCRANK is? Rather than explain it to you, Patrick Murphy, ARTCRANK’s Media Director got us the lowdown from the Founder and Creative Director of the show, Charles Youel. In short, ARTCRANK is an exhibition of bicycle-inspired posters that showcases talented local artists and lets visitors purchase affordable, original artwork while also expanding the cycling community. You can find out more about ARTCRANK at artcrank.com and about this Friday’s show on Facebook here.

Here’s the backstory on ARTCRANK!

———-

Answers by Charles Youel, Founder and Creative Director of ARTCRANK:

How did ARTCRANK start?

The seeds of the idea for the show started germinating in 2006. I was working for an advertising agency in Minneapolis, and basically just needed a creative outlet that didn’t involve clients, budgets, meetings or agency politics. I’ve always loved bikes, and working with graphic designers instilled a fascination with printing, especially posters. After seeing what Jeff Johnson of Spunk did with Poster Offensive, I thought to myself, “People might dig posters about bikes.” Turns out they do.

What event took place to give you the idea to start ARTCRANK?

Basically, I was bored with my job. I was working at an advertising agency, and as much as I loved getting paid to make stuff up, the projects I was doing were just soul-suckingly dull. At the same time, the guys that I rode bikes with were all designers and art directors. And when we were out riding, we’d do what people always do on bike rides, which is bitch about our jobs. In late 2006, I was at an art show of political posters, and I ran into a friend who owned a bike shop in Minneapolis. As we were talking, it finally hit me: You know all of these super-talented designers who love bikes and hate their jobs. Do a bike poster show. So I basically turned to him and blurted out “Bike poster show.” It took him exactly half a second to say “yes,” and we staged the first-ever ARTCRANK show at his shop less than six months later, in April 2007.

You’ve now taken ARTCRANK to cities all over the country, and even the world. Did you ever expect such a big response?

Not at all. I still go into every show with a sense of amazement at how bicycles inspire creativity in artists and designers, and how many people see their own lives and experiences reflected in the work. I’ve stopped trying to imagine where things might go next, because the reality has turned out better than anything I’d dare to dream up.

photo courtesy of ARTCRANK

photo courtesy of ARTCRANK

What’s your favorite ARTCRANK memory?

I tend to get pretty locked in to management mode at our openings, which means I’m constantly on the prowl, making sure that the posters are hanging straight, that there’s enough change in the registers, that the beer hasn’t run out, that people are having a good time. When we did our first show in London in 2010, in the middle of the opening, my wife tracked me down in the middle of the room, grabbed my hand and basically dragged me out across the street from the venue. The place was full, and there were people lined up waiting to get in. She said, “I just want you to stand here and enjoy what you did for a minute, OK?” That one’s pretty hard to top.

What is the goal/purpose of ARTCRANK ?

We want to give artists and designers an opportunity to create poster about something they love. And we want to hold events that give people an opportunity to enjoy those works of art in an atmosphere that’s very different from a traditional gallery or museum.

What is your philosophy/mission?

I think our philosophy boils down to “Make art as accessible as bicycles are.” Learning to ride a bicycle is one of those experiences that everyone I’ve ever met has in common. Even people who wouldn’t call themselves “cyclists” remember learning how to ride a bike. The day that the training wheels came off, that first moment of freedom when mom or dad let go, when you understand how moving your feet can make you fly. Everyone understands that, but a lot of people are intimidated by the idea of art. ARTCRANK creates an opportunity for people to discover art that they can identify with — art that’s created by people who live in the same city, the same neighborhoods they do.

photo courtesy of ARTCRANK

photo courtesy of ARTCRANK

Why is the bicycle at the heart of your work? What is the link between art and bicycle?

Riding a bicycle is an act of creative expression, an art form that changes every time a person goes for a ride. I can ride the same streets every day, but it’s always a different experience, and I see the world in a different way. Bicycles are simple, beautiful machines, and I think that spare aesthetic appeals to artists and designers in particular. But I truly believe that riding a bicycle inspires people to create, to want to make something.

What was the first show like?

Overwhelming. We expected maybe 50 people to show up. We got 500. I think the only thing we weren’t prepared for was that the show would be a success.

What was the motivation behind it?

Basically, I was bored with my job. I was working at an advertising agency, and as much as I loved getting paid to make stuff up, the projects I was doing were just soul-suckingly dull. At the same time, the guys that I rode bikes with were all designers and art directors. And when we were out riding, we’d do what people always do on bike rides, which is bitch about our jobs. In late 2006, I was at an art show of political posters, and I ran into a friend who owned a bike shop in Minneapolis. As we were talking, it finally hit me: You know all of these super-talented designers who love bikes and hate their jobs. Do a bike poster show. So I basically turned to him and blurted out “Bike poster show.” It took him exactly half a second to say “yes,” and we staged the first-ever ARTCRANK show at his shop less than six months later, in April 2007.

How many people were involved, then versus now?

At first, it was basically just me. Now, we have six people in Minneapolis, one in London and a network of people who help us out all over the U.S.

What do the shows look like now?

The basic format hasn’t changed much: We still recruit local artists to create posters about bikes, and throw parties where we sell art. We’ve standardized some things like pricing — all posters sell for $40 — and we’ve developed systems to make the whole operation run smoothly. Apart from that, the biggest difference is that we do the show 10-12 times a year instead of one. And I spend a lot more time in airports than I used to.

Process of putting on a show?

We figure it takes a year of planning, recruiting, preparation and promotion to successfully launch the show in a new city. The most challenging parts are finding the right venue and the recruiting the right artists. That’s especially tough when we’re working in new communities where we don’t know the cycling and creative culture as well.

Do cities reach out to you?

That’s usually how it starts. When we first started expanding outside of Minneapolis, we probably grew faster than we should have, and there were some rough spots. But I feel like we’re settling in to a good number of shows now. Of course, we just added three new U.S. cities and a show in Paris. So we’ll see how that goes.

photo courtesy of ARTCRANK

photo courtesy of ARTCRANK

Connection Between Art and Bikes:

Riding a bicycle is an act of creative expression, an art form that changes every time a person goes for a ride. I can ride the same streets every day, but it’s always a different experience, and I see the world in a different way. Bicycles are simple, beautiful machines, and I think that spare aesthetic appeals to artists and designers in particular. But I truly believe that riding a bicycle inspires people to create, to want to make something.

Favorite artists/posters?

I fall in love at least 10 times a show, so it’s pretty much impossible to pick a favorite artist. I know it sounds like diplomatic BS, but it’s true. My favorite things about the show is that, even after looking at literally thousands of posters about bicycles over the years, people still come up with stuff that blows me away. That never gets old.

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