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Public art driven by pedal power

September 02, 2009|Diane Haithman

If you can ride a bicycle, you could be part of Jessica Findley's public art project "Aeolian Ride." On Oct. 1, the Brooklyn-based illustrator and designer will make Santa Barbara the next stop in her series of "live happenings" in which members of the public don wind-inflated suits in whimsical shapes -- bubble, bunny and teardrop, your choice -- and cruise through town.

The Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum is seeking 52 volunteers to take part in the ride, a collaboration of the arts organization, the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition and Wheelhouse bicycle shop. Participation is free (to reserve your spot, visit the "Aeolian Ride" website, www.aeolian- ride.info).

Findley's piece has already been seen in San Francisco; Cape Town, South Africa; Milan, Italy; New York City; Tokyo and other major cities around the world. In Santa Barbara, the so-called "live happening" will be part of the group's Forum Lounge season.

" 'Aeolian Ride' is an artwork which is for the public and composed by the public," Findley said in an interview. "It seeks to capture the joy of the wind passing our bodies as we ride into shapes which express this excitement to those we pass by on the street. . . . It is kinetic sculpture. It is an event to bring people together in order to enjoy being silly in public.

"Each city has a different response. Some are more surprised than others. New York and San Francisco are used to spectacles, which is not to say they don't enjoy them. The riders also change from city to city . . . sometimes the riders are bike enthusiasts, sometimes art enthusiasts, sometimes both. It is fun to see the group get a mix of commuters, messengers, art lovers, artists and families."

Findley says she chose easily identifiable and entertaining shapes. "The simplicity of the form lets us revert to a childlike state of imagining; at the same time, their shapes are quickly recognized as we zip through the city with all its shapes, colors and distractions."

Adds Findley, "When I thought of this project, I had no idea how far it would go and how many places it would visit. It's strange when a dream becomes a reality."

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diane.haithman@latimes.com

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