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An abandoned bike helped two students find their calling as street artists.
In Spring 2011, Vanessa Nicholas, 25, a student at Ontario College of Art, was tired of staring at an old bike that rusted outside a storefront on campus for years.
Nicholas, with the help of friend, Caroline Macfarlane, 26, painted the bike neon pink and planted flowers in the bike’s basket. Two days later, the city of Toronto placed a removal notice on the bike, referring to it as “a bike stored on public property.”
Nicholas articulated her frustration with the situation on Facebook: “The funny thing is that this bike has been sitting in the same place for years, unnoticed by the city. However, once it is brightened and made beautiful, it’s got to go. I am determined to save the neon bike that makes so many people happy.” she said.
Nicholas said she was surprised when a large virtual group seemed to back her mission to beautify the city. The story reached the international level after BoingBoing, — a highly visited website — pick up on Nicholas and Macfarlane’s story. On June 2, BoingBoing featured Nicholas’ Facebook post.
Nicholas and Macfarlane appeared before the press outside Toronto City Hall to announce the birth of “The Good Bike Project” — a city-sponsored public art initiative that planned to place 60 decorated bikes around Toronto.
The city’s opportunistic support of Nicholas and Macfarlane’s efforts paid off. Buzz of “The Good Bike Project” has continued to spread internationally. On August 12, The Guardian in the U.K., featured a photo of the original painted neon bike that was ticketed and a description of the project.
According to Nicholas and Macfarlane’s blog, “support for the bike had poured in from locals and from people in far flung locations including Brazil and Australia.”
Nicholas said resources for the project from the City of Toronto dwindled, but she and MacFarlane have managed to keep the project moving forward. “The reaction has been so positive,” Macfarlane says. “I just feel like there’s a thirst in the city for more public art, more colour, not less.”
Learn more about: “The Good Bike Project”