Client: Baltimore Light City
Location: Baltimore, MD, United States
Completion date: 2019
Artwork budget: $65,000
Canopy is a grove of interactive sculptural trees that invites its visitors to power their own experience with bike-driven generators. As participants pedal the honeycomb-latticed Canopies spin, illuminate, and expand in time with the bikers’ momentum. Inspired by crown shyness, a phenomena wherein a grove of trees grows together to create a continuous canopy without overcrowding, these individual sculptures reach together at full inflation to create a luminous net of color that embraces the bikers and onlookers. Canopy instigates a collaborative process of placemaking, in enacting the image of a stand of trees the piece places ecological vitality in parallel to social and artistic vibrancy. Some of the canopies are powered by not one but two bicycles, emphasizing collaboration while also incorporating smaller bicycles for children. As participants race and see their effort transformed into color, movement, and beauty they are invited to be amazed with themselves.
Baltimore Light City is a free public arts festival that serves to bolster Baltimore's vibrant cultural life by inviting city residents into a transformational experience. Canopy was conceived to support that vision, and every aspect of the artwork from its forms to its colors were designed to inspire participation, collective excitement, and an empowering experience. One of our key inspirations was to create a situation that would bring event goes into collaboration with us, and more importantly, one another. We also wanted Canopy to serve as many people as possible, so it was important to incorporate many opportunities for participation. This is why the installation maintains open spaces around the bicycles and between the Canopies to allow onlookers to stay and cheer while others explore the grove on foot and touch the moving sculptures. In this way, several dozen people were able to interact with the installation in a given moment, a key capacity for a large festival.
Canopy emerges from the collaborative meeting of the bike-powered experience design company Can-duit and the inflatable arts collective Pneuhaus. The initial challenge was to translate the variable power of the bicycle generators into an engaging interactive experience that would invite festival-goers into the process of place-making. Pneuhaus designed the form, lights, and colors of the Canopy sculptures to change in response to the riders and the electricity they would generate through Can-duit’s bicycle system. Both studios worked together throughout the development process to arrive at the circular ground plan and total aesthetic.