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“In A Tangle” Sculpture First Stop on Art-by-Bike Tour

Roanoke City employees and artist Kagan Taylor (far right) work together to install the bike rack titled “In a Tangle.

by Cheryl Hodges

There were smiles all around as the new bike rack on Grandin Road was dedicated last Friday (July 1), even if the engraved plaque reads May 21.  The “functional but whimsical” piece’s arrival was unexpectedly delayed after being slightly damaged when it first left LA, but after repairs, it finally made its way across the country to its intended home in the heart of Grandin Village.

The sculpture is a giant comb with a rounded handle—all made of highly durable Mangaris wood, and running through the comb is a strand of steel “hair” which bikes will actually be locked onto.  The rack is a head turner, perhaps at first because of its play on proportion – and because it really does scream “whimsy!”

During the installation, several passersby paused to ask City workers what it was going to be and most reacted with laughter and approval. The ribbon cutting drew a nice crowd in spite of the heat. Several people rode up on their bikes to lend literal support to the bike rack sculpture, parking their bikes there at the conclusion of the remarks.

Both Vice Mayor David Trinkle and Jeremy Holmes, director of RIDE Solutions, which co-funded the project, addressed the group. Trinkle said the “In a Tangle” sculpture brings the number of pieces of public art in Roanoke to 106. He said Roanoke is “very committed to the public art program which includes the greenway system.” Holmes stated that, “This project emphasizes the links between the Valley’s growing bicycle culture and the region’s already vital arts and cultural community.”

There were several other familiar faces on-hand including state senator John Edwards and Rupert Cutler. Artist Kagan Taylor said he had never been to Roanoke before, but found it to be a very friendly and welcoming city, saying “it is a delight to find such a tight knit community in this area.”

He went on to explain the creative process behind the unusual bike rack. He said it “came from the germ of an idea—what would you look for in a bike rack if you were really, really small?” After thinking of a comb, “the obvious solution was to have a hair running through the comb.” He likes the shift in scale, saying it reminds people that bikers ARE small—smaller than cars and more fragile.” He hopes his art in even a small way “lends to an acceptance of our [bikers’] position on the road.”  He added that he believes biking itself is a good and worthwhile endeavor.

City of Roanoke Arts and Culture Coordinator Susan Jennings offered the reasoning for choosing the location for the rack. “The newly extended greenway through Vic Thomas Park and the bike lanes on Memorial Avenue allow for easy access for bikers to Grandin Village. We needed a space with sidewalks wide enough to accommodate the art and wanted a location with a lot of activity so we could encourage people to use bicycles to do their shopping, eat out, and attend events. Grandin Village offers all of this in a compact area.”

The bike rack is also the starting point for the “Art by Bike” tour which “offers a happy synergy between Roanoke’s public art collection and the city’s nationally recognized commitment to cycling as a transportation alternative.” The tour brochure includes a map of the route along with photos of the various art “stops” on the 8 mile loop. This innovative partnering of art and greenway projects has allowed the city to be well on its way to being recognized as an art hub in southwestern Virginia.

A stop in Grandin Village, for an official event or otherwise, would not be complete without running into the self-proclaimed “Angel of Grandin Road,” James Tarpley, who watched the goings-on with bemused serenity, then slowly went about tidying the area. Though no one asked, he seemed to be just fine with the new sculpture, which may be one of the higher compliments of the day.


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