Michelle Estrada curating debut highlights machine of change: the bicycle.
From a bike handle turned antler decor mantle piece to eighteenth 18th bloomers, the new student union gallery tells the story of freedom and human rights through a conglomeration of quirky bicycle artifacts.
Titled “Cycling Through A Story of Community & Change”, the exhibit was commissioned by the Boise State Bicycle Advisory Committee to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the bicycle. The gallery exhibit was curated by Boise State’s own senior illustration and philosophy major, Michelle Estrada. In her first curating debut she illustrates the symbolic and functional machine of change: the bicycle.
“You really cannot separate the invention of the bicycle from social change. It is used so often as the symbol of progress, transportation, health, community and environmental sustainability,” Estrada said.
The gallery is furnished with a diverse range of paintings by local artists and Estrada, historical photographs of bicycles in Idaho and Boise State courtesy of the Idaho Historical Society, sculptures courtesy of the Boise Bicycle Project, traditional women’s bicycle clothing sewn by Estrada herself, cigarette cycling cards and actual models of bicycles.
“I want the audience to see how the bicycle is so important and innovative. I want them the see where many social changes started and how. I also wanted them to see how the bicycle influences their own community and art,” Estrada said. “If they feel anything, I hope it’s wonder and gratitude. We often take for granted the freedoms we’ve acquired from transportation.”
University Art Curator Fonda Portales cited this passion and vision to why Estrada was chosen to weave together the story of emancipation.
“My favorite aspect from the show is how a seemingly simple machine could be so influential in changing the working class, the lives of people of color and the lives of women. We couldn’t be the women we are today without the bicycle-who knew?!” Fonda Portales said.
Given only a couple months, Estrada researched, designed and curated the entire gallery with little to no funding. The project heavily relied upon local partners, such as local artists and the Boise Bicycle Project, and only received a single anonymous donation used to buy the rights of historical prints from the Idaho Historical Society.
Self described as a “trial by fire” project, Estrada learned the art of curating despite having no experience prior to designing the gallery.
“Curating is a lot more work than people think. They don’t tell you how much math is involved in curating or how much time goes into emailing, organizing, collecting and documenting each piece that will be presented in the gallery. They also don’t tell you how to map out and design the gallery layout in relation to its contents. It was surprising how much measuring, counting and leveling I had to do in the gallery,” Estrada said. “It is not just hanging pictures up.”
Estrada not only had to design the physical layout of the gallery, but also coordinate with the local artist network to present a well rounded narrative of social change in Idaho.
“It was a challenge to deal with multiple artists, keep track of all communications and meet deadlines for each and every task outside of the gallery. It definitely gave me a better understanding and deeper appreciation of curatorial work,” said Estrada.
The exhibit will be open in the Student Union Fine Arts Gallery, located on the second floor of the SUB, from Aug. 20 to Sept. 24.