Art in Motion

By on March 1, 2008
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Sculptor Hobart Brown knew how to prove a point, and create a spectacle. “He was sort of like Barnum & Bailey, a PR genius, a total character,” says Theresa Segreti of the American Visionary Art Museum. When the city of Ferndale, Calif., wrote a parking ticket for his son’s tricycle in 1969, Brown slapped on two more wheels and some scrap metal, transforming the trike into an odd-shaped pentacycle, which as “art” was exempt from the ticket.

Soon, a rival gallery owner challenged him to a race down Main Street, and an annual competition was born. Today, the “Mother Race” boasts 200 participants a year and has spawned similar events worldwide, including the Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race, where each May artist-engineer teams duke it out on the downtown mud, water and sand course. “The appeal is that it opens doors for a lot of people who have energy to spare to put that energy into something creative,” Segreti says.

The only criterion for the Baltimore race is that vehicles be human-powered. Staying in one piece for the 15-mile land and water race is an added bonus. Awards range from Most Creative to Slowest, but contestants also vie for The Golden Dinosaur Award, given to the most terrific deterioration.

“While some of the art is so fantastic and gorgeous, some of the sculptures you can tell right away won’t make it through the race,” participant Tom Jones says. “Often the catastrophic and crowd-pleasing breaking down of the art steals the show.”

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