Artcars and Artbikes cruise Lake Harriet on Saturday

A student in the Artswork program

A student in the Artswork program

​Artcars, artbikes, and one couchmobile will ride around Lake Harriet this Saturday for the 17th Annual Artcar and Artbike Parade Cruise at 6 p.m. If you would like to participate and don't have an artbike, no fear--just bring your bicycle and your imagination to the Lake Harriet Bandshell on Saturday at 10 a.m. for a free, family-friendly ArtBike Workshop with artist Mina Leierwood.

The lineup for the parade starts at 5 p.m. at the Rose Gardens. If you'd rather be an observer, just bring a chair and a picnic to the lake at 6 p.m. and watch the show. 

According to Jan Elftmann, director of the ArtCars of Minnesota, there are about 75 artcars in the state. She expects about 50 cars to show up for the parade. There will be bikes as well, including those built by teens in the Artsworks program, run by Compas. 

"Artbikes have always been a part of the Artcar Parade," says Elftmann. She hopes also that in the future, artboats can be included as well.

The first artcar parade occurred in Houston, TX, Elftmann says, but Minnesota's artcars are a different breed. "The cars have to be hardier here," she says, because of Minnesota's cold winters. The vehicles regularly appear at the Art Shanties on Medicine Lake, and cars from warmer states usually don't come because of the extreme weather. 
The Annual ArtCar Parade has been going on since 1995. Once a part of Intermedia Arts, the parade broke off with the arts organization in 2008 when Intermedia was facing financial struggles. Since then, the artcar artists have had to reorganize. 

"We've gotten looser," says Elftmann. Though she is still running the group, she no longer gets paid, and they raise money by appearing for a fee at different community events. In the past, artcar drivers came from all over (including Nebraska, Texas, and California), because they used to get gas money. Nowadays, there are fewer drivers from out of town. Hopefully, they will be able to get funding in the future to make it possible for out-of-town guests to participate. 

Elftmann used to have a cork truck, but it needed a new engine. She's now working on a new car called the Holy Circle. Everything on the vehicle is in the shape of a circle. It's got plates, coins, buttons, and pins. She's not done with it, she says, even though she's been working on it for six years.

When not working on her artcar, Elftmann is a sculptor. She received her training at MCAD. She says about 50 percent of the artcar people are practicing visual artists outside of their artcar activities. Others have someone make their car for them. Having an artcar, Elftmann says, is a way to "live your art every day." 

Elftmann says people often congratulate her for being so brave, and not doing the norm. "It brings a smile to their face," she says. "It's about joy and happiness."