Any city can feature street art and murals but what about bike art? Well, ride into town to see Sarasota’s must-see cycle art. I discovered this quirky bike art in Sarasota en route to Starbucks at 7 am for my cafe latte. A man in a pickup was lifting a yellow bike festooned in flowers out of his vehicle and placing it on the sidewalk (across from the Sarasota Library). Tweety bird also perched on the bike.
“Hmmm interesting,” I thought. But my caffeine-deprived mind was more fixated on getting my cafe latte than investigating the weird bike.
After buying my drink, I returned to the Art Ovation Hotel. Watching the sunrise at its rooftop pool, I sipped my drink and nibbled on my bagel.
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A little research uncovered the story of bike art in Sarasota. It turns out that a local artist decorates the bikes—using paper flowers, signs, peace signs, cartoon characters, and whatever might amuse him (aka flamingos). Each bike is unique.
The artist (William Pearson) is known as Dr. Nik. Apparently, he chained his first bike art in Sarasota in front of the theater to test people’s reactions. The positive reaction prompted him to pursue his passion. As quoted in Sarasota Magazine, Pearson said watching the couple play with the bike for about five minutes made him realize “Wow, look at the joy they’re getting from that. That’s something.”
“Dr. Nik is a celebration of life on two wheels.Isaac Eger
A brown bike located in the shopping district features an old boot, a child-size guitar, fake white flowers, and yellow dots on the bike rims. The message: Keep Evolving, Please.
A bayside bike is painted cobalt blue (including the wheels). It is wrapped in red and white stripes like a peppermint stick. The signature white flowers festoon the bike handles.
My favorite bike is painted all-white. A large flamingo (the state symbol) is perched on the bike handles. Two other flamingos ride on the back wheel. The wire basket is packed with plants and flowers. The bike is chained.
Reportedly, there are 36 of his artsy bikes scattered around Sarasota. My scavenger hunt led me down to the park on Sarasota Bay. I discovered several bikes at the waterfront as well as around the shopping district. When I visit the city again, I will hop on a bike to find more of Dr. Nik’s bike art in Sarasota.
Bike art is just one example of Sarasota’s quirkiness. This is a city that should enshrine ART in its name because it is dedicated to its cultivation.
Where can you go for your art fix?
Art Ovation Hotel
The Art Ovation Hotel features a mini art museum. From the second I walked through the hotel lobby, I was immersed in the abstract paintings that lined the walls. The streamlined presentation drew my eye down the long passageway.
Near the bar is a room featuring an exhibit of local artists’ works. In addition, each floor in the hotel features one of three artists’ works. Hotel guests can vote on their favorite painting.
Art Ovation Hotel offers a one-hour art tour for their guests. I found it a delightful way to find out more about the painters who are featured at the hotel. And I loved sipping my glass of complimentary wine as my guide discussed the artists. I would definitely stay at Art Ovation Hotel again.
When you leave the hotel, be sure to look for the sidewalk mural of three famous artists.
Unconditional Surrender Sculpture
The most surprising thing I discovered on my visit to Sarasota was a 25-foot sculpture of a sailor kissing a nurse. Known as the “Unconditional Surrender” sculpture, it is based on photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt picture of an unidentified sailor and nurse kissing on V-J (Victory over Japan) Day on August 14, 1945. Sarasota’s sculpture is located at the park on the waterfront.
Sarasota resident and World War II veteran Jack Curan purchased the sculpture from the Sculpture Foundation. It is also known as Embracing Peace. However, not all residents embraced this public art work, according to Public Art. City Spaces. The Sarasota Collection.
“While it is derided by some as kitschy, there’s no denying the joy that thousands of people have taken from recreating that romantic kiss in front of the sculpture.”
Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College
The Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College (located at 1001 S. Tamiami Trail) must not be confused with the John & Mable Ringling Art Museum, which is located on Bay Shore Drive. I accidentally showed up at the wrong museum but decided to stay. This contemporary museum is known as a kunsthalle, an art museum without a permanent collection. It features short-term exhibitions of modern and abstract art.
“ . . . the Museum inspires new ideas and new ways of being through an endless rotation of transformative, relevant, and pioneering exhibitions and programs . . .”Mission Statement
My favorite art installation was “Unraveling: Aranda\Lasch + Terrol Dew Johnson.” This floor-to-ceiling design is based on a collaboration between the New York and Tucson-based design firm Aranda\Lasch and Tohono O’odham artist, educator and activist Terrol Dew Johnson.
The two architects discovered Johnson’s baskets at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York. They found similarities in their computer design work and the basket weaving tradition. “In the baskets of the Tohono O’odham tribe, ritualistic making is embodied by the coil . . . The thousand-year-old weaving ritual became the artists’ shared language.”
“Coiling is a structural strategy for producing functional objects, but it is also a ritual for connecting the weaver to his or her community, elders, and surrounding desert environment.”
The Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College is located in the M. Leo Elliott Building, which is the former Sarasota High School. It features indoor and outdoor sculptures, a patio, a cafe, and a gift shop. A ticket costs $15. (Tip: Museum Free Day is the last Sunday of every month.)
Ringling Art Museum
The crown jewel of Sarasota’s art scene is the Ringling museum complex. In addition to the Ca’ d’Zan mansion where the circus impresario John Ringling built in the 1920s, the venue features two circus history museums, gardens, and the palatial art museum.
“John H. Phillips designed the Museum—a pink, Renaissance-style palace with 21 galleries enclosing a courtyard graced with copies of iconic sculptures.”Ringling.org
Truthfully, I should have dedicated four hours minimum to roam the Ringling estate. But my iPhone battery was close to dying (since I took too many photos) and I needed to call for an Uber pickup. I feel you need at least two hours just to see the entire art collection.
The city’s slogan is “Visit Sarasota: Beaches and Beyond.” I would add that I found its quirky art scene beyond fun.