By Guy Still

Dana Sikkila is a woman of passion. As the Executive Director of the 410 Project, a Mankato art gallery completely run by volunteers, she has to be. She is also passionate about bicycles and loves to get in the saddle and go. Last year she came up with a way to uniquely combine her love of art and bikes: 410’s Project Bike.

Project Bike is a lot like other gallery showings: First, an open call to artists is issued. Next, a number of artists are selected for the exhibit and their works are submitted. What makes Project Bike unique is that Dana personally collected all of the art on her bicycle in one trip. Her journey took her from Mankato to Minneapolis, where hipsters and fixies abound, all the way down to Delavan, home of an annual Tractor-cade.

In nine days Sikkila put on nearly 500 miles and collected 22 pieces from 11 artists. Those selected range from a 6-year-old painter to well-established craftspeople including Brian Geihl, recently commissioned for work at the newly christened $1 billion US Bank stadium.

Works selected cover a variety of media, including drawing, collage, mixed media and glass carving. Sikkila chose to forego a theme for the exhibit in order to open up the variety of exhibitors.

(credit: The 410 Project)

(credit: The 410 Project)

By getting on the bike to collect the art, Dana had an opportunity to connect with the artists in a way that most galleries don’t. She is fascinated not only by the works themselves, but also with learning about the people behind them, thereby gaining a better sense of their motivation.

She recalled rolling up to a beautiful rural Minnesota home with an adjacent barn that appeared to be incomplete. Sikkila soon learned that the barn housed the artist’s workspace. What’s more, in order to be closer to his passion, the artist built a living space in the loft of the barn, rather than staying in the well-appointed home.

Along the way, Dana camped and relied on the generosity of friends and acquaintances for lodging. She had one fellow rider, who assisted with maintenance and navigation. They rode through wind and rain, but were fortunate enough to avoid any mechanical issues on the bikes. (During the inaugural bike project in 2015 Sikkila wasn’t so lucky and was struck by a car in Hastings.)

Every piece of art collected was strapped onto a trailer that Dana pulled. By the end of her journey, the “super bungeed, tarped up” trailer weighed more than 100 pounds and required two people to maneuver when not pedaling. Artists were responsible for packing their pieces in order to keep them safe from the jostling and elements of a multi-day bike ride. Glass pieces required extra attention during the packing process.

(credit: True Façade Pictures)

(credit: True Façade Pictures)

The project was partially funded by a grant from the Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Council, but 410 is still looking for help from individual donations to fund the project. You can give through Paypal. Private fundraising is critical to maintaining this volunteer-run space for artists. Donors of more than $50 will be highlighted during the exhibit.

This year Dana was followed by a film crew from True Façade Pictures, which is working on a documentary about the endeavor. They hope to submit the finished work to film festivals and public broadcasting outlets.

Both the exhibit and film will debut October 8th with a reception from 7-9 pm. The works will be on exhibit until October 23. You can learn more about the Bike Project and Project 410 on the Facebook page.