SDTC Does Art Spin: Why riding in a bike gang of hundreds in search of art was the best Thursday night we've had all summer

We love art, we love bikes, Art Spin seems, to us, like simple math. But wrangling 200 wily cyclists on a tour of the West End can’t be easy. That’s why we’re grateful the good folks at Art Spin do it so well. Last Thursday, bikers gathered on a perfect summer evening at the Trinity Bellwoods gates.

Led by the sound of a trumpet and bike-mounted boom box, we took to the streets, moving  down Queen West in a smooth serpentine mass to Birch Libralto. After scrawling with sidewalk chalk all over the pavement, we took in a mixed-medium group show. Our favourites? Pin-up needlepoint images and a large textile tree piece. Next, the group moved on to Diaz Contemporary to see work by Guelph’s MFA students. 

Stop number three earned us a visit from the police, who asked what we were up to, and then for the contact info, so they could come on the next tour. We wandered around Walnut Studios, an artist space with studios set up open-concept everywhere, cozy lounging areas and a buzz of energy in the air. We would have loved to move in, but the best was yet to come.  As the sun started to set over King West, we cruised into a parking lot where brass players stood in a circle with backs to each other. As the bikers began to ride around them in a lazy circuit, they played, changing their rhythm to reflect the number of people biking past them. Next, it was back to Queen West, to watch an amazing vocal performance at the Theatre Centre. 

Lastly, we ended up at the abandoned Shaw Street School. Soon to be taken over by Artscape, this was a last chance to see the school before it’s renovated. Anyone who went to elementary school in Toronto was hit by a wave of nosalgia in the old, practically unchanged, building, where masking tape nametags were still peeling off cubbyholes, and staff phone lists were still pinned next to those heavy black plastic in-school phones. We jumped rope, spat spit balls, played badminton in the hall, discovered installations hiding in the basement, and ran up and down abandoned hallways, beer in hand. 

Art Spin happens on the last Thursday of every month all summer long, so make sure to check out the next tour, on July 28th. By far one of the coolest things happening in the city right now, they have also suffered from the disinterest in arts funding that our governments seem so fond of lately. Every little bit helps, so if you can, donate to keep them going strong! 

~ Haley Cullingham 

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