Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race

Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race
Kinetic sculpture races are organized contests of human powered works of art designed to travel on land as well as on water. Such races take place in many locations across the United States. One of them is the Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race held in Baltimore, Maryland.

The history of kinetic sculpture racing began in Ferndale, California in 1969. Local sculptor Hobart Brown modified his son’s tricycle, transforming it into an embellished pentacycle (a five-wheeled vehicle). Local artist and gallery owner Jack Mays challenged him to a race. Ten more people joined them in the first kinetic sculpture race down the city’s Main Street. The event became annual, expanded and subsequently transformed into the Kinetic Grand Championship. The race spans 42 miles over 3 days during Memorial Day weekend.

The Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race was established in 1999 by the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) in collaboration with Hobart Brown. It became the first such race on the East Coast. The event is also known as the East Coast Championship. It is completed in a single day and covers the distance of 15 miles.

The race features all-terrain works of art made of used bicycles, gears, and parts. There is an impressive array of vehicles, from simple crafts piloted by only one “kinetinaut” to extremely well-engineered vehicles that can be over 50 feet long and require a team of pilots. All sculptures must be human powered and custom built for the race.

The Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race spans the city’s urban center. The route starts at the American Vision Art Museum and circles through the city to end where it started. Participants have to travel on land, through mud and sand, and over the deep waters of the Inner Harbor. The route also includes an obstacle course at Patterson Park. In 2002, racers had to cross the ice rink in the park which was a rather challenging extension of the all-terrain aspect.

The East Coast Championship in Baltimore is typically held on the first Saturday of May although it is sometimes moved to the last Saturday in April. Pilots compete for several awards including the Grand Mediocre East Coast Champion Award, the Next to the Last Award, and other trophies. After the race, the vehicles are exhibited at the AVAM.

Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race

Photo: Ben Mason




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