They take their degrees and their dreams with them, but Mary Washington grads leave some things behind – beloved professors, fond memories, and bikes.
Each year, from Jepson to Combs, abandoned two-wheelers get tossed in the trash. UMW Chair of Art and Art History Carole Garmon is working to change that. This past winter, she and a dozen students wrapped their imaginations and talents around the cast-aside rides, turning them into shareable showpieces.
“Our world has become so serious,” said Garmon, whose plan was to decorate the bikes to reflect Mary Washington majors and halls, and introduce them back to the community. “We wanted to do something to make people smile.”
The quirky designs are catching attention. Plastic combs laced through spokes give a nod to Combs Hall. A faux flower-wrapped frame with a nesting bird perched on the handlebars pays tribute to science and nature. A bike draped in dollars represents the College of Business.
“It was interesting to see the different surprised reactions,” said senior Michelle Pierson. “We gave those bikes color again.”
Garmon and her crew hope the moveable masterpieces go to anyone who needs them, spreading goodwill and lightheartedness across campus and into the Fredericksburg community.
The project – the service component of Garmon’s senior capstone class Professional Practices in Studio Art – got rolling last year. Rescued bikes had to be cleaned and inspected before getting dolled up. Students conceived their ideas; collected supplies from thrift stores, craft shops, wherever; and got to work.
The group wheeled out their creations – complete with labels and locks – just in time for Spring Break and parked the refurbished rides around campus, including the Jepson Science Center, Simpson library, the University Center, and Trinkle, DuPont, Pollard, Monroe, Combs halls.
Administrators inside each building hold the combination codes to unlock the bikes, which are available to anyone who needs them.
Garmon sees the recycled-bicycle project as a revolving one and hopes to continue it with students in coming years as a sort of gift to the community.
“Reusing material is so important to our Earth and to our future generations,” Pierson said. “I hope this inspires others to reuse, create and give.”