Bicycles displayed as works of art in new exhibit at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry [Slideshow]

Exhibit spans 200 years of cycling history

 
 

By Alaina Buzas

Digital Content Editor

See a slideshow from The Art of the Bicycle at the bottom of this story

Now that Chicago is finally seeing some spring weather, we're bringing out our bikes for long rides along the lakeshore and through our favorite parks.

But do you ever really think about your bicycle? What about the art and science behind each different model?

The Museum of Science and Industry hopes their new permanent exhibit, The Art of the Bicycle, will spark family conversations about just that. Exhibit curator Margaret Schlesinger said she wants families who visit the exhibit to be able to identify with different bicycles featured.

"We feel that a bicycle represents part of who you are, so you identify yourself with some of these additions, colors and styles to this personal machine," Schlesinger said.

"It's really about featuring each individual bicycle as a unique machine ... having the visitor look at them as individual pieces and start to look at the details of its uniqueness."

The exhibit includes nine rare bicycles from the museum's collection, along with 14 cutting-edge bicycles currently on the market, including one made out of cardboard.

Schlesinger said that with the vintage bicycles, she hopes families will start to understand bicycles' place in history and how families fit into that history as well.

"I want guests to come and have that conversation to sort of try to identify being able to operate these things. 'Can you imagine taking a spiller on this one? How would you pick it back up and how do you get back on it? How would my feet work with this?' So they begin to become part of the story which is exactly what we want with this," Schlesinger said.

The new exhibit is another effort on the part of the museum to show kids how science can be hidden in their everyday lives.

"Science is everywhere, and who knew! It's in the bicycle," Schlesinger said.

One feature of the exhibit that really stands out as a conversation piece for families is a display of a couple dozen different bike seats from over the decades.

"Folks can take a look at it and show their children, in my case, the banana seat that I loved as a child... You don't have to love bikes to see this is a fun display," Schlesinger said.

Although bike rides nowhave become a staple of family spring activities, the exhibit explains how the first wooden bicycles were meant for only a certain group of people.

"It wasn't meant to be ridden. It was meant to be pushed. It was meant to be enjoyed by a very small percentage of the population. Mainly men and mainly people of a particular wealth," Schlesinger said.

The part of the exhibit featuring bicycles currently on the market truly is a showcase for today's talent in the science, architecture and art worlds. The new bikes span everything from a fully-functioning cardboard bicycle prototype to professional-grade bicycles that would be used in the Olympics or the Tour de France.

Kathleen McCarthy, the museum's director of collections, said this variety represents the current state of the cycling world.

"As guests will see in our exhibit, there is now a bicycle means to fit almost every need, terrain or riding style" said McCarthy.

 
 
 





 
 
 
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