An Afternoon at Art Corner

Cocooned in an roomy enclave away from the bustling bicycle shop, the art space is a relaxed, creative sanctuary tucked behind the Work Trade area. Subtle aromas of steel and crafting join the Spring air that wafts in from the roll-up door to the welding table outdoors.

Crates and drawers line the walls of the room, filled with meticulously organized bicycle parts which are no longer usable for bikes, but perfect for art, in all their unique symmetries and asymmetrical irregularities. On the opposite side lies a diverse array of crafting materials, from wire and markers to beads and superglue. At Art Corner, these will be laid out on the table, infusing the atmosphere with imaginative possibility.

A co-creative space held every Thursday from 3 PM to 6 PM, Art Corner offers weekly crafting hours where members of the community can drop in and make art. It fosters a relaxed, easy-going space where community members can express themselves artistically, connect with others, and draw inspiration from each other alongside our staff.

It’s a few minutes past 3 PM when the first participant steps into the most recent Art Corner, eager to continue a project begun a previous week. It was carefully stowed in a basket high atop a shelf, waiting safely out of the way from the creative whirlwind of the art space. Superglue takes time to fully set, but this project has had a week. With glued-on locknut eyes and welded-on brake levers, a charming robot emerges with vivid character beneath the artist’s meticulous hand.

Glue, bolts, string, wire, and welding — everything is on the table for assembling multitudinous components into captivating art. Liability prevents easy use of the welder; yet, throughout the night, the Art Coordinator lingers just outside — welding art for a Sunday market and preparing a Saturday welding workshop for those who’ve signed safety waivers — and standing on call to perform swift and minor welds behind a door is rolled 3/4 of the way down to shield the blinding sparks.

At the art table, a member of the art committee crafts tube bracelets, immersed in the feedback loop of inspiration inherent to a co-creative space. Each Art Corner’s theme is designed to be engaging and approachable. This week, an example of each of steps for a braided bike tube flower bracelet is laid in the table’s center — the length of the strips, the shape of the flower petals — but participants are invited to explore any creative endeavor using the extensive collection of recycled bike parts and crafting materials.

Windchimes are the manifested goal of two women who come in together. Having bought a BICAS wind chime before, they are curious to discover how to craft them themselves. In this, a prepared box of aluminum parts and folded instructions on windchime creation is the answer. Still, with the use of a magnet to test the metal, all are welcome to the library bike parts in the art space. While not magnetic like steel, when aluminum clinks together, it creates a musical, tinkling resonance.

An easy atmosphere characterizes Art Corner; sometimes people pause to mill about the shop, exploring the other creative features of the shop. A father heads briefly to the counter to generously donate wheels before returning to help his child craft. They are securing a training wheel to a chainring, creating a base for a tornado of cassettes. A woman explores the Mini Gallery and purchases a work on display. Compact and colorful, the foreground of this piece is a mini bike crafted of bike parts. A miniature diorama, this is framed by a rich, resplendent painting of the desert landscape. It’s a three-dimensional wonder, stunning in its intricacy, and as it was created and generously donated by another artist currently crafting. It’s a powerful feeling.

In this multigenerational space, every age group is represented, the backgrounds multitudinous. Some are local Tucsonians; some are visitors in search of something to do. Some are experienced artists; some are just starting. All draw inspiration from one another. Hand in hand with the BICAS mission of transportation accessibility, the art program exists both to uplift local artists and to lower barriers to the arts amongst those in Tucson. In both of these, creating access and a space to explore new mediums through Art Corner is foundational.

At the first Art Corner of April, seven people create art, all told. As the clock approaches 6 PM, artists trickle out as they came — some storing projects at BICAS for the future Art Corners; some taking them home in continue working on later.

As 6 PM draws near, people trickle out as they came — some storing projects at BICAS for the next time; some bringing them home in grocery bags to finish later. Some offers are made to assist with cleanup; the shop is closing, and it’s swiftly done. Some excited voices discuss ideas for the next Art Corner. At the end of the afternoon, heady sense of catharsis characterizes the atmosphere. This is the flavor of the self-expressive outlet of art.

Art Corner is held every Thursday at BICAS from 3 PM to 6 PM. It is free, but donations (whether monetary or of your art) sustain our art programming.

Learn more about Art Corner.