Last weekend I went to Vegas, but instead of gambling, I spent my time installing some sustainable art for a new bike company…and I got to use some of Elemental LED’s RGB LED lights to make the whole thing sing. Here’s what happened:
Last month, my eco-art organization, RuckusRoots, was asked to create a booth made completely from recycled materials for the launch of The ReCycle at the Interbike Expo, the world’s biggest bike trade show, held in Las Vegas, Sept 19-21, 2012. The ReCycle is the world’s first bike line with both frame and fork made from 100% recycled aluminum content. Every other component on the ReCycle is either sourced from a local company, made in the USA, or made from renewable materials. In short, The ReCycle is the world’s most eco-conscious line of bikes. Its first collection includes a fixed gear, a cruiser and a mountain bike, and besides being totally planet friendly, they also feature cutting edge bike-nerd details like a “train drive,” smooth shifting and a non-existent seat tube! See more at www.riderecycle.com.
Needless to say, we were excited to be asked to facilitate the launch of such a great product. The thought of unveiling the world’s most sustainable bike line using our very own sustainable approach to art in one of the world’s LEAST sustainable cities provided just the type of delicious irony we feed on at RuckusRoots. Behind enemy lines we would go! But first we had to figure out what to build.
Standard booth spaces at Interbike are 10 X 10 feet, and so we mapped out those dimensions at our building site. Next, we took inventory of what materials we already had, how they might efficiently fit into the small space, and what else we might need to procure. We knew we needed to display the bikes as prominently as possible while also conveying the themes of recycling and sustainability in a way that would make the booth stand out from all the rest! In our existing arsenal we counted refrigerator doors, already used several times for a different project, The Freedom of Speech Wall. We also had some old plywood, a few aluminum cans and some random scrap metal.
We decided to go with a tree sculpture as our central, eye-catching piece. We cut out and built a slightly abstracted tree shape from the plywood, with the help of a very skilled carpenter friend (thanks, Ken!). Meanwhile, we asked all of our friends to start saving their aluminum cans–the more the merrier! We were thrilled at the response: over 500 aluminum cans were donated to help us make this piece! Tin snips in hand, we cut out hundreds of leaf shapes, and scored the backs to make them look more realistic (thanks to Paper Botanicals and Erinn Bone for their help on this part). Next we painted the tree using old paint sitting in the basement and affixed the leaves with small screws.
Next, it was time to think about the rest of the booth. How would we display the bikes and merchandise? How would we adorn the walls? We also needed a logo sign and a place to display brochures and business cards.
Naturally, it was time for a trash run. We visited several scrap metal sites and junkyards in south LA to pick up a few necessary items. We scored washing machine drums and a few old bike tires, an old wall clock and some very cool mid century stools that reminded me of oversized, whimsical toadstools. Along the way we were given pieces of old acrylic, mirrored plexiglass and clear plexiglass.
The stools ended up being the exact right height to hold up and display the bikes, so we painted them the same colors as the tree and called it a day. We reconfigured our existing refrigerator doors to fit the dimensions of the booth and used them as interactive siding. I pulled out some of the large, activism-themed magnetic words I had used for Freedom of Speech Wall (think refrigerator poetry gone big) to complete the look.
Next, we enlisted the help of our collaborator Robin Banks of Art Customs to CNC The ReCycle logo out of the acrylic. Backed with the mirrored plexiglass, the resulting sign was stunning! To make a small table, we stacked the washing machine tubs, painted them black and topped them with the clock surrounded by old bike tires. We painted the clock face and used the cut out acrylic leftovers from the logo sign to personalize the table top. Finished off with clear plexiglass cut into a circular shape, the table was both functional and stylish (picture at top). Finally, we lit the whole thing using RGB LED wall washers donated by Elemental LED for a previous RuckusRoots event, TRASHion Show. Energy efficient LED lighting is the only way to go for a project like this! We used the lights to highlight the tree and to uplight other areas of the booth. We programmed them to display a full range of colors in a slow fade, which drew people into the booth.
Walking the pieces of our TRASHformation into the Sands Expo hall in Vegas, we certainly got a few head-turns. Every other booth at the expo was constructed using conventional, rented materials. Once our installation was up, however, confused stares turned into admiring and inquisitive smiles. Attendees were intrigued and impressed by the ingenuity of our display and couldn’t stop asking about how we made it. It was a great experience to expose thousands of unsuspecting bike enthusiasts to the beauty, fun and ingenuity of TRASHformation, and of sustainable art in general. A big thanks to The ReCycle, for giving us this opportunity and to Elemental LED for donating the energy efficient LEDs to illuminate our projects like this one. See more pictures on the RuckusRoots website or on our Facebook page.