Downtown Kalispell contest calls for color, innovation

May 5, 2019

A sculptural bicycle-rack design contest is the inaugural project of the new Kalispell Arts On the Street committee.

Local artists are encouraged to submit designs for innovative bike racks with eye-catching color schemes. The Kalispell Downtown Association is heading up the contest, which will award a $500 prize to each winner. The racks will be fabricated by the Flathead Valley Community College Occupational Trades Department, with the hopes that they’ll be ready for use by this fall.

“They can be very imaginative,” Vonnie Day, chair of the arts committee, said of examples she’s seen in other communities. “If you can think of it, someone has probably fashioned it into a bike rack. It’s a great way of creating a functional, interesting object.”

A few years ago Day, who works for Discover Kalispell within the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce, traveled to Penang, Malaysia. Touring its famous Georgetown district of interactive murals and street art inspired her to work toward a similarly vibrant outdoor art scene in Kalispell.

“That collection of street art attracts thousands of people into Penang and to wander the streets and alleys to check out murals,” she said. “I thought we could do something like that in Kalispell.”

The contest is the first step in adding significantly to current art pieces downtown, such as the ice climber sculpted by artist Kay Lynn above Rocky Mountain Outfitter, or the mural of Jeannette Rankin painted by Tessa Heck on the west wall of Kalispell Brewing Co.

“The Kalispell Downtown Association is interested in more street art to attract people into the downtown area to make it interesting and colorful and fun and unique,” Day said. “They also have a mission to get more bike racks installed downtown.”

The core area will be more bike-friendly once the downtown pedestrian and bike trail system, planned along the route of the current railroad tracks, is constructed. The rack installation sites along Main Street will be within walking distance of the trail.

“I think we have three perfect locations for them to be visible and hope to get a lot of acknowledgment for that to continue the process forward,” Kalispell Downtown Association President Pam Carbonari said. “This won’t just be bike racks. We want to have more art on buildings, murals - any other projects artists want to bite into.”

Design selections will be made by an evaluation committee comprised of members of the Kalispell Downtown Association, the Kalispell Business Improvement District, the city of Kalispell, the FVCC Occupational Trades program and the Kalispell art community.

“We are finding a lot of different entities who want to work together to create an atmosphere downtown that is supportive of artists and celebrates their work,” Carbonari said. “The bike-rack competition will be rewarding and celebrating artists.”

Deadline for submissions is June 3 and the winning designs will be announced July 8.

For more information and complete submission requirements, visit www.downtownkalispell.com/kaos

Reporter Heidi Gaiser may be reached at 758-4438 or hgaiser@dailyinterlake.com.