It’s that time of year! The American Visionary Arts Museum hosts the Kinetic Sculpture Race, one of Baltimore’s most creative festivals on Saturday, May 5.
Since 1999, Baltimore AVAM has hosted a most unique race of wacky, creatively-crafted, imaginative and, most importantly, totally human-powered vehicles all designed to traverse the streets, muds, and waters of Charm City. Vehicles in the Kinetic Sculpture Race are varied in size and design, from a single, decorated bicycle to massive creations spanning more than 50 feet, piloted by teams. The race spans 15 miles throughout Baltimore and passes through Federal Hill and Patterson Park. This year’s race begins at AVAM at 10:00 a.m. with the "blessing of the feet." The race itself is scheduled to last eight hours. A full map of this year’s race route can be found at www.KineticBaltimore.com.
This year’s event is free to attend and the public is encouraged to get into the avant-garde spirit by dressing in creative costumes. Previous costumes have included hippies, bananas, men in nuns’ habits, and sparkly princesses. Photos of previous spectator attire can be found online, on the event’s official website.
Baltimore’s race is one of several events held around the world that have grown since the birth of Kinetic Sculpture racing in 1969. That year, San Francisco-based artist Hobart Brown (1934-2007) upgraded his young son Justin’s tricycle with two more wheels, creating a Pentacycle. Not satisfied, Brown eventually added more creative materials, creating an art piece that prompted a neighbor to challenge the structure in an upcoming town arts festival race. Sadly, Brown did not win that initial race (nor did his neighbor, incidentally, both having beaten by a smoke-emitting turtle that laid eggs), he earned extensive national publicity when a local congressman was photographed on riding Brown’s creation. In addition to Baltimore, races have been held throughout California, Oregon, Arizona, and Pennsylvania, and as far away as Western Australia. The annual Baltimore race has been deemed the “East Coast Championship.” The annual world championship is held in Humboldt County, California.