When Artcrank, a humble poster party for bike people, launched in Minneapolis in 2007, few would have imagined it would become a global movement. The fun returns to its hometown for its 10th year on Saturday to show off the varied and vibrant interpretations of cycling from 50 local artists.
Anne Ulku, an MCAD grad and Artcrank veteran, is among those featured this year. As a full-time freelancer, she doesn’t often get the time to make art for personal pleasure. Since participating in Artcrank for the first time in 2010, her designs have become a staple of the annual event. Her surprising mix of architecture, bicycle structure, optical illusions, and geometry is paired with polka dots, squiggly lines, and repeating patterns, creating an almost hypnotic effect. “I try and dissect the form of a bike and break it down to a very simple, basic, plain view,” she says. She then adds a concept or a story, such as, “What does a bike moving through the city represent?” Pavement, her 2011 poster, took the point of view of the ground, as if the viewer were standing beneath the wheels of a bike, as a blond bicyclist passed overhead. The following year, Ulku broke down a bike into its separate components in Build. She ventured into two-toned territory in 2013 with Gold Bicycle, and went abstract with the following year’s Balance.
“Each year I try and challenge myself a little bit more to reach outside my comfort zone or try a different style,” she says. She approaches the process as an exploration, and experiments with several sketches and compositions. “Even though I’ll work weeks developing an idea, it always seems to come back to that first initial thought,” she says.
Those first thoughts have been valuable — not just to Ulku, but to the Artcrank organization. In anticipation of Artcrank’s 13 shows in two countries in 2014, founder Charles Youel recruited Ulku to make a tour poster.
“We thought it’d be cool to treat it like a tour for a band: one poster for all the shows, with individual destinations listed on the print,” Youel says. “Some of Anne’s posters for past events were incredibly simple and powerful takes on the basic shape and design of a bicycle, and that was the vibe we wanted to capture.”
Ulku’s design was used on marketing materials, T-shirts, buttons, key chains, and as a photo backdrop for that year’s events. It became the best-selling poster at every Artcrank show that year, and remains one of Youel’s favorites.
“What I appreciate most about Anne is that she doesn’t have one style or look that she carries from one poster to the next,” he says. “She’s done eight different posters for our shows so far, and every one of them takes a different approach or perspective on the bicycle and cycling. I get the sense that she’s always trying to top herself, and it’s incredibly gratifying to be on the receiving end of that.”
While Ulku admits she’s not a die-hard biker, “I feel like it’s a part of everyone’s life, especially in Minneapolis,” she says. “Ever since getting into Artcrank, I’ve gotten more of an appreciation for the bike community.”
Those in the community will likely recall Drew Preiner’s Meet the Bunyans poster from last year’s festivities. For those who missed it, the design features the iconic lumberjack Paul with his wife and children riding a four-person bike through the woods with the Lake Superior shore in the background. Babe the Blue Ox, a stand-in for the family dog, runs ahead of them on a leash.
Preiner welcomes another chance to create for Artcrank this year, though he says his design won’t be quite as elaborate. “I like to think of them as like a billboard,” he says of the posters. “People are going to be walking by. They’re only going to spend five, 10 seconds with this piece of art. It’s got to be something really simple and something people really connect with.”
Preiner, who was born and raised in Bloomington, is a self-taught artist who learned design out of necessity while a member of a touring band for eight years. “We couldn’t afford to hire anybody to make T-shirts or posters. I just started doing it and found that I really loved it,” he says.
Shortly after graduating from the University of Minnesota with a business degree, he began working at creative agency Knock. One of the agency’s clients is Handsome Cycles, so when Preiner was sidelined from running due to an injury, he took advantage of the deals on custom bikes. Now, he rides as far as 80 miles to Stillwater, in addition to freelance website work, interactive design, branding, and being one-half of the up-and-coming band Fraea. “To be able to do Artcrank, to combine my love of design and bikes into one element, is pretty cool,” he says.
As if awesome art weren’t motivation enough, this year’s Artcrank also includes food trucks, valet bike parking, and plenty of beer.
IF YOU GO:
2540 Second St. NE, Minneapolis
4 to 10 p.m. Saturday, June 4