The Fairmount Park Art Association is hosting several events, including public art bike tours, to allow locals to check out art around the park in innovative ways.
As Philadelphians come crawling out of hibernation eager to brush away the cobwebs of winter, groups such as the Fairmount Park Art Association are offering opportunities to get people back into the fresh air. One new event that seems to be a hit is their public art bike tours.
FPAA has joined forces with the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia to offer public art bike tours, an innovative way to view public art. Tours consist of two courses, a four-mile course that is recommended to children and those who are less experienced on a bicycle, and a 10-mile course for the more advanced riders.
Both routes take riders on an adventure through the windy roads of West Fairmount that are home to more than 50 sculptures and public art sites. The tours were created to provide a glimpse into the newly released public art bike map, which was created to aid riders in a self-guided tour of the hidden gems throughout the Fairmount area.
The map, which includes more than 150 spots throughout the city, also highlights art in the direct vicinity of Fairmount Park. One of these is John J. Boyle’s 1887 “Stone Age in America” sculpture.
Jenn Richards, development and communications manager at FPAA, said these tours reveal a new side of Fairmount outside of Kelly Drive.
“A lot of people don’t realize there is a ton to see on the other side of the river,” Richards said.
She said that the Horticulture Center, located at North Horticultural Drive and Montgomery Avenue, is one of the lesser-known sites that leave many in awe.
“People see [the Horticultural Center] and say ‘this is in the park?’” Richards said. “Fairmount West gets a lot less traffic and there is so much beauty.”
Philadelphia’s Cycling Committee chairman Russell Meddin said the tours are “a way to be out in the fresh air while enjoying thought-provoking art.”
The routes are not difficult to master and cause little worry for inexperienced riders.
While promoting the importance of enjoying good art, Richards said the tours also promote “safety and safe city biking.”
Along with enforcing the rule that a helmet is needed to participate, the tour groups are provided a briefing of bike safety and maintenance tips at the start of each tour provided by the Bicycle Coalition.
“Riding bikes makes it easier to find new places – it is a great way to go somewhere [the rider] hasn’t been before, but it is important to follow the rules,” Richards said.
He said obeying traffic laws and remaining aware of fellow riders are important.
“The response has been overwhelming,” Richards said.
Every tour is currently at capacity with additional riders on a waiting list.
Due to the fact that FPAA is a small organization consisting of five members, it is difficult for them to offer the tours routinely. That is why they released the public art bike map that, Richards said, “provides research material so people can take [the tour] on their own.”
In addition to the map, there are various points along the course that contain an audio component. To access the audio bits pertaining to the art pieces, riders can call the phone number, 215–399-9000, or download the application on their smart phones.
Tours will be held April 29, between 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., and those who are interested can be added to a waiting list.
The FPAA is also offering various other ways to “engage city residents and tourists with public art in new ways,” according to its website. Here are a couple other ways the organization is keeping citizens educated about local art as well as entertained and outdoors:
Public Art Pathway
April 21 and 28
11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Keep an eye out for the oversized, helium filled lollipops scattered along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, which mark the locations of 12 outdoor sculptures. Art lovers can make their way from piece to piece enjoying what the city has to offer free of charge.
Sculpture Flashlight Mob
8:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
“Iroquois,” a sculpture that spends most nights illuminated in front of the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, will be turned off, leaving the night to be taken by art lovers equipped with flashlights. The flashlights are used to illuminate the sculpture into its own light dance.
Jenine Pilla can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.