Participants in men’s professional bike racing have not been noted for intellectual pursuits or firepower. After all, Laurent Fignon was nicknamed “Le Professeur” not because of his glasses but because he had spent a year in veterinary college, a mark of high education in the peloton. Maybe you don’t have to think much when riding. But in “The Art of Cycling,” perhaps the most unusual cycling-related book we have enjoyed, there is revealed a very different side.
“The Art of Cycling” is an autobiographical work by James Hibbard that revolves around two big influences in his life: cycling and philosophy. No half measures here: he managed to get onto the US National Cycling Team, competing primarily as a track sprinter, and got pretty high up on the rungs of the professional racing ladder in America. Reaching a limit in sports, he subsequently obtained a degree in philosophy at the University of California, Santa Cruz, before undertaking doctorate studies at DePaul University in Chicago and has gone on to a career in writing.
There have been other books that have combined a narrow topic reflected through The Bigger Picture, such as “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” and we have reviewed “Into the Suffersphere,” linking Eastern philosophy to cycling here. “The Art of Cycling,” simply described, is one person’s account of a three day bike ride with two friends along the legendary Highway 1 in California. (Curiously, the author, born and raised in the Golden State, never refers to it as the Pacific Coast Highway, which is how it seems to be known to the rest of the world). His friends are of long-standing and come from the first part of his life, that of cycling. He had not ridden for a while, and needed to prepare for a trip that promised pleasure but physical challenges as well.
As someone growing up in the cycling wasteland of Canada, it is impressive to see how developed cycling was in California as the author started his career. The generation of Lance Armstrong had clearly inspired many and the infrastructure allowed enthusiasts to dream big. Hibbard’s epiphany began when he road a neighbour’s Schwinn Varsity down the street: “This bike was different—so fast that it felt tantalizing close to the freedom of flying—and riding it was perhaps the most beautiful sensation I’d ever experienced.”
Hibbard’s family story is a troubled one, with depression and suicide and divorce in its background. Realizing he had talent on the bicycle, he began the upward march through the amateur ranks. A big fish in his local pond, winning lots of track events, he affirmed himself through success and eventually attracted the notice of the US National team. His account of training in Colorado Springs indicates where training was in the mid-1990s, following the recipe of the Eastern Europeans but maybe turned up a notch or two. It sounds pretty grim and while he did achieve a degree of success he was not chosen for the Olympic team. There was a short interlude of road racing with two of the top domestic trade teams but realizing he had gone as far as he could, Hibbard hung up his wheels and went to university to study philosophy. He had come to the conclusion that the sport of bike racing, for which he had lived, was irredeemably corrupt.
Philosophy?! When one’s life is totally consumed by cycling, by training, by obsession about food, by equipment, this seems like an odd direction to go. The author and his father had talked about philosophy, which clearly made a major childhood impression on him, and he sought answers to life’s mysteries through Western philosophy, only to discover its limits. Yet, the the bicycle offered a kind of alternative:
“Cycling forced me to reframe the problem itself. In many ways the demands and challenges of being a cyclist were the antithesis of those I found in philosophy. With the solitude afforded by the bike, the questions remained, but I was changed…. Cycling provided an escape hatch from my own head and the bicycle grew to be sacrosanct. Visceral and immediate, riding drew me back to the physical world; the play of the sunlight as it filtered through the leaves of a tree on the surface of the dark asphalt or how the cork tape on my bicycle’s handlebars felt underneath my hands…”
Hibbard’s life became, for a while, one of academia but dissatisfaction with what he saw at university and growing depression force a retreat and reconsideration. Undergoing treatment successfully, he recalibrated his life and is clearly, as a husband, father and writer, in a happier place. And that place included a return to cycling. The trip on Highway 1 is exactly where so many of us would find pleasure: a scenic ride with old friends, calling up the good from the past and testing the legs now and then. With this account, the reader can understand the attractions of riding in California.
His two friends are from his cycling world, both having been racers and while one is does not compete now the other has gone on to become a Directeur sportif of a WorldTour pro team, but the author does not make any remarks about the current state of pro racing. Rather, the story of the three day ride is smoothly integrated (amazingly!) with 2,500 years of Western philosophy and we are given a tour ranging from Plato to French existentialism in clear terms for the most part, although there are passages you will want to read twice. The are parallels drawn with cycling which are familiar to all of us, such as the pursuit of perfection, whether in equipment or the actual riding experience. There is no doubt that there are moments in cycling that are transcendent, when the pedals seem to turn themselves and the bicycle—that object of so much mechanical fiddling and adjustment and expense and concern—suddenly just seems to disappear.
Hibbard does an excellent job of leading the reader through the different schools of philosophy and how an individual can view the world. Martin Heidegger, the noted (and controversial) German existentialist, wrote some fascinating stuff about objects and the relationship of tools (not specifically bicycles but certainly applicable) to their users. While there is much that seems useful in the philosophy he studied and passes on to us, the author is, at the end, unsatisfied with much of it, providing counterpoint to each assertion, whether it is the thought of Plato or Hume or Satre—only Nietzsche seems to come out unscathed. Eastern philosophy, notably Zen Buddhism, takes a very different approach and there is danger in its level of detachment.
It is doubtful that there are many books which offer up cycling as a central theme but mention Wittgenstein and Kirkegaard in passing and it takes a particularly skilled writer to do this. Self-discovery through philosophy is not an easy theme and James Hibbard handles it superbly, even putting Ambrose Bierce’s definition of philosophy from “The Devil’s Dictionary” as a heading: “A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.” But the “Art of Cycling,” a unique and rewarding book, is in turn erudite, meditative, and familiar, but always elegantly expressed, and it certainly takes us on a road to somewhere.
“The Art of Cycling: Philosophy, Meaning and a Life on Two Wheels” by James Hibbard
305 pages, hardbound
Quercus Editions, London, 2021
# “The Art of Cycling: Philosophy, Meaning and a Life on Two Wheels” is available from AMAZON.COM HERE. #
(Photographs have been provided by the author but do not appear in the book)
Northern Arts Review: Why art is smart investment – Alaska Highway News
Hello, dear reader. This week, I will cover a big announcement from the BC Arts Council, as well as some ins and outs of the arts grant–writing system, and argue for stronger relationships between local governments and arts organizations for the betterment of the community.
On November 12th, the BC Arts Council announced its Arts Infrastructure Program, with awards up to $250,000, more than three times the usual amount made available through this program. The purpose of this funding is for arts organizations to acquire, construct, or renovate an arts space that will enhance the cultural capacity of the community. There are two other streams for funding as well, worth up to $25,000 for planning and research and $40,000 for acquiring specialized equipment. The deadline is 11:59 PM on Jan. 14, 2022.
The BC Arts Council will host a virtual information session for communities and organizations in the Peace-Liard Region about this program at noon on Dec. 2. This session will include insight on the AIP from Program Officers Erin Macklem and Sarah Todd, as well as a Q&A section.
This grant is a great opportunity that can make a major difference in the region. If successful, it could finance the new arts hub in Fort St. John, a permanent gallery space in Chetwynd, or much needed renovations for the Dawson Creek Art Gallery. This is the second year in a row that BCAC has released funding through this program. However, it is unclear whether it will be offered again, so it is important to seize this opportunity now.
The BC Arts Council has been working to serve rural communities better in recent years, which is why the grant qualifications are slightly relaxed for northern communities. This grant may be up to 90% of the total budget for projects based in rural and remote areas with a small population. As an example, for applicant organizations based in Dawson Creek or Fort St. John, only 10% of the budget needs to come from an additional source. Meaning $25,000 can become $250,000, which is a great investment. On the other hand, the grant can only make up to 75% of the project budget for organizations in communities that don’t qualify as rural or underserved.
These budget splits are often how arts funding works from granting bodies like the BC Arts Council, Canada Arts Council, First Peoples’ Cultural Council, and Creative BC, although the funding component is not usually as high as 90%. Grant-based awards typically cover between 50% to 75% of a project total, which is still incredibly generous. Even with a 50% split, an applicant can double their project budget. The purpose of these splits is to show that the project is feasible, and has support from more than one source. This is something that arts administrators know well, as navigating this grant system is a large part of what they do. However, this point is often lost on local governments, who don’t have close working relationships with these funding sources.
The drawback with opportunities like the the AIP is that it often requires cooperation from municipal governments, who are slow to respond. Often arts spaces are publicly owned, but operated by a non-profit. For example, the Dawson Creek Art Gallery building is owned by the City of Dawson Creek, meaning that the gallery cannot go ahead with an application like this without the city’s support. Historically, the arts have been a blind spot for our local leaders, and this oversight is leaving money on the table, to the detriment of the community.
Understandably, at any given time there are many other pressing needs demanding the attention of local politicians—the pandemic, for example. The cultural revitalization of our communities slips lower down the priority list. However, this needn’t be the case. What is needed to allocate funds efficiently is simply an understanding that the arts and its funding system is a complex industry with many opportunities that require specific expertise and knowledge to capitalize on. This is why local governments need to work closely with arts organizations, and be more responsive to them, so that when opportunities like the Arts Infrastructure Program arise, both parties are prepared to make the best of them. That way, we can bet small and win big for the communities we serve.
Do you have an artistic endeavour you would like to promote? Is there a topic you would like me to discuss? I would love to hear from you! Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
44th annual Penticton Art Auction set for early December – Penticton Western News – Penticton Western News
After almost two years of adjusting on the fly and being forced to reschedule events, the Penticton Art Gallery is set to go ahead with the 44th annual art auction on Dec. 5.
The gallery is giving people the opportunity for a sneak peek on the evening of Dec. 3 so that they can explore all the art that is being sold.
The weekend-long event doesn’t have to wait though. Online pre-bidding opened on July 26 and is set to end 24 hours prior to the start of the live auction.
This year’s event will be conducted both in-person and virtually, via Zoom, and anyone attending the live auction at the gallery will be required to show proof of vaccination.
“If you don’t have a vaccine passport and would like to arrange a private viewing, please contact the gallery and we can make alternative arrangements,” said Penticton Art Gallery Director Paul Crawford.
Among the items available for auction include Andy Warhol pieces from his “Marilyn” series. The opening bid for the Warhol items was $1,500, with an estimated value of $5,000. After Marilyn Monroe’s death in 1967, the artist began to work on his now-famous series.
This year’s auction at the gallery will contain no shortage of historic items available for sale. James Irwin’s NASA flight suit is also up for auction, with an opening bid of $4,500 and an estimated value that the gallery calls “priceless.”
A woolly mammoth tusk rounds out the gallery’s list of “priceless” items but in this case, the piece had an opening bid of $1,750.
To view the complete list of available items, the gallery asks that you visit pentictonartgallery.com/annual-art-auction.
“The Penticton Art Gallery champions the transformative power of the Arts through an annual program of thought-provoking exhibitions,” said the gallery’s director.
Crawford said in the latest bi-monthly gallery newsletter that they’ve seen a 60 per cent reduction in revenue over the last 18 months that they had previously earned through a number of fundraising programs, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite that, he told the Penticton Western News on Thursday that even though he doesn’t know what to expect out of this year’s auction, he’s excited about the gallery’s immediate future.
“As we come to the end of the year, I hope you can help support the Gallery through the purchase of one of our Soup Bowl packages, a work from our Under $500 Exhibition + Sale, Annual Art Auction, the purchase of a membership, early bird tickets to the 2022 Ignite the Arts Festival, or a charitable donation this year,” he wrote in the letter.
Successful bidders will be notified via email within 48 hours of the auction’s closing.
The live auction begins on Dec. 5 at 1 p.m., with the deadline for registration coming on Dec. 4 at 4 p.m.
As of Nov. 25, the auction has raised $8,295, which is 33 per cent of the gallery’s goal for the event.
To register for the live auction, email email@example.com.
In addition, to get in on the pre-bidding festivities virtually, you can visit 32auctions.com/PAG2021.
Black British painting, gay New York photography and Dr Eno will see you now – the week in art – The Guardian
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