Art Spin

Format Festival

City Berlin, Germany

Art Spin Berlin is a multi-disciplinary interactive bike and art tour of creative venues, art performances and site-specific installations throughout various Berlin neighbourhoods. The aim of the tour is to challenge traditional contexts of exhibiting art by producing new creative content in unconventional locations, while at the same time promoting urban cycling and sustainable communities. Art Spin aspires to bridge the gap between the art world and the general public and to create an accessible, inviting and fun event that is also educational and critically engaging. As such, we create an integrated, interactive community event for local and international participants to see the potential and future development of Berlin’s urban landscapes and societies. We curate the geographical route of each tour with as much care and planning as each artwork, and as a result our vision is to temporarily transform neighbourhoods during an Art Spin tour.

Art Spin, initially called Gallery Spin, was created in Toronto in 2009 by founder Rui Pimenta and in its first year consisted of bicycle tours of galleries. After curating unique performances specifically for the bicycle tour, Pimenta saw the potential for growth and the need to begin exploring alternative spaces and temporary site-specific works. As a collaborator with Art Spin Toronto in 2011, artist Vanessa Brazeau was inspired to adapt Art Spin to Berlin after seeing strong interest in both art and bikes in the city and the potential to fuse the two together as a strategy for connecting the general public to art in public space. With roughly 400 participants per tour, the large-scale nature of Art Spin encourages a welcoming format for accessing contemporary art and exploring neighbourhoods at the city's periphery. There is no dominating demographic: the tours are enjoyed by individuals of all ages and levels of art knowledge and from both the local and international community. The site-specific artworks curated for each tour are intended to reflect both the importance of the spaces we visit and create open and critical dialogues of the issues facing Berlin neighbourhoods in an accessible way.

Location Get to know your city by bike

Gain knowledge of a neighbourhood in your city, and explore it extensively by bike. Note down interesting spaces / parks / projects and remember, the more unconventional the better! We have always chosen neighbourhoods outside of the center, but you should adapt to what works best in your city.

Mobilization Build up your community and a team

Approach people running the spaces you find interesting and ask them to get involved. Build a community of cycling and arts organizations who will support you. Build up a committed team. Put out an open call for volunteers to help you before, during and after the event.
You will need co-coordinators, curators, route planners, someone to manage your online presence in order to promote the tour, someone to manage finances. Your team can do more than one task, but we recommend establishing roles and communicating results weekly.
Your volunteers are most helpful on the day of the tour, when you need to think about people to collect donations, navigate participants to the correct entrance at each location, communicate with artists during set-up and take down of each stop, make sure no garbage is left behind.You will also need to approach volunteers from the cycling community to help control traffic along the route if you do not have a police escort.

Funding Apply for funding early on!

Art Spin tours are not for profit, however there are many costs associated with putting on an event. To give you an idea, our first tour budget was 1,500€, the second 3,000€ and the third 6,000€.
Make sure to apply for funding or run a crowdfunding campaign early on so you know the budget you are working with. You need to think about covering costs of project material and production fees at each stop, artist fees, printing costs, website, documentation and post production. In Berlin we have to pay a registration fee to the traffic and local authority and also hire paramedics as part of our safety plan, so get in touch with your local government and see if there are fees associated with having an event of this size.
An important mandate of Art Spin is to pay artists a fair fee for their work on the tour. We expect everyone using this format to do the same.
On top of funding, you will also have donations from participants, but it is important not to rely to heavily on this due to various circumstances that could effect participation. Make it very clear to participants at the start of the tour that it is a donation based event. We run a 'pay what you can' system so that the event remains open to all. We give a recommended sum of 8,50€. Have your volunteers collect donations at the start and end of the tour, and set up way in which people can donate online before the event.

Official / Legal Talk with your city

Every city is different when it comes to having a large scale bike tour. In Toronto, there is no registration for the tour or law against having it. In Berlin, it is a lot more complicated once you have a bike ride with more than 99 cyclists. Unlike critical mass, which does not have official organizers, we are held accountable for the event and cannot follow the same loophole. We also cannot declare the event a demonstration because we make stops in between, we ask for donations, and we also feel that a demonstration would change the spirit of the festival. So we apply as a Veranstaltung (event) and follow the same regulations as marathon organizers do. We have to apply for permission 8 weeks in advance with a project plan describing each stop, provide detailed route map for the traffic authorities and police escort, as well as a safety plan with proof that we've purchased event insurance for the date, booked 2 paramedics to accompany the tour and have at least 10 helpers to assist with blocking traffic. It is complicated, but it also makes the day of the tour a lot more organized and safe. We hope that your city is more relaxed! We recommend speaking with city officials or a lawyer in your city early on to see what is required to make a large scale bike ride possible. IT IS ALWAYS POSSIBLE!!

Mobilization Host an open call

You may have artists you know you want to work with, and the venues you are interested in might also have artists they would like to showcase. Nevertheless, we highly recommend hosting an open call to expand your network and to remain open to all types of artworks and disciplines. An open call is also a great way to market the event and get people talking about it a few months before. Since the tour is site specific/the intention is to highlight the city/there is the risk of having to reschedule due to bad weather, we choose to prioritize projects proposed by local artists. We also prioritize projects that are directly connected to or inspired by the neighbourhood proposed for the tour, confront the city's current political/social situation in an critically engaging, thoughtful way. Most importantly, select projects that can be viewed/experienced by large groups.

Other things to consider:
Put the open call out well in advance of your event date - it requires a lot of planning to coordinate each project
Site-specific works should be encouraged, however you should communicate to artists that they may need to be altered depending the tour route and requirements from city authorities.
Submissions for performances and other time-based projects should last no longer than 15 minutes.
Projects that are easily viewed/experienced by larger groups are more successful, as are interactive projects.

Communicate clearly with the artists that this event is quite different from normal formats - an influx of people will come to see their work for no more than 20 minutes, and then disappear just as fast as they came. It can be challenging, but its a great experience!

Location Get specific with venues

Once you've selected your projects, it is time to pair them with locations and get specific about the logistical possibilities of each site. Public spaces are generally less complicated in terms of communication but require more logistical problems. If you are working with privately operated spaces, ask what equipment they have available, whether you can use their power, if they have a bathroom which participants can use. Have a meeting together with the hosts of each venue and the artists that will produce their project there. Speak to everyone in detail about the work, how it will be presented, how the participants will enter and exit, what equipment needs to be rented etc. For the last stop, work with a location that is on board to have a bit more action - music, drinks, and (a) more ambitious project(s). The last stop is always a highlight of the tour - people have a chance to sit down, discuss, and process everything they just experienced.

Location Plan your route

Now that you've selected the projects which may require the use of certain spaces, and have done your own research on locations, it's time to plan the tour route! The tour should be 5-6 stops including your meeting point and end point - and depending on the density of your city, the route should be between 8-12km. We recommend starting in an easily accessible public park and ending at a space where people can stay for a longer period. It is important to time your route as accurately as possible and make a time plan for your team, contacts at each location and artists.
Make sure to check when the sun sets on the day of your tour and plan projects that require sunlight closer to the start of the tour.
We recommend starting the ride 30-60 minutes after your proposed meeting time so that you have time to collect donations, gather people together explain road saftey and present the first project(s).
Don't let the other stops exceed 30 minutes - including 10 minutes for arrival and departure.
Scout out an area at each stop for people to park their bikes and communicate each spots with your volunteers so that they can direct participants upon arrival at each stop. However, bike parking is a surprisingly organic process on the tours and people always manage to find a place.
Make sure you host 2 test rides with your marshals before the tour and point out all narrow spots, bad corners, dangerous pumps, etc. These rides should be just a few days before the event so that you can make adjustments in case of any new road construction.

Communication Get Promoting!

About a month before the tour, send out a press release, start making blog posts about artists and projects, and get your community sharing! Two weeks before the tour post the route and locations online as well as a time table, so that if people want to join along the way they can.

Communication Donate before the tour / Predict your numbers

Set up a way for people to make donations before the tour. We do this 1 month in advance but people usually don't start donating until 2 weeks before, with about 50% donating in the last 48 hours. This will give you some understanding of how many people you can expect, and also means you have less work on event day when volunteers go around collecting donations. We use Eventbrite for this. They take a fee but the platform is well done and we can easily create lists of all those attending, add their emails to our mailing list and send out annoucements.

Since some people aren't comfortable paying online, we also created a 'free' ticket which allows people to let us know they are attending, and aware that should donate at the event.

Misc Random Advice

If it's legal in your city, find motivated cargo bike riders and get them to sell drinks enroute so you can add to your finances!
Partner with a local bike rental shop to offer discounted bikes for the tour
Communication is key! Schedule weekly meetings with your team and always keep updated with artists and sites
Schedule a rain date in case the weather is ... (well we never say bad, because it will ALWAYS BE PERFECT ! )
Partner with a few rickshaw drivers to make the event accessible to those with disabilities and those who are unable to ride a bike
Learn the cycling safety rules of your city and communicate them with participants at the start of the tour.
Print a booklet with all stops, include artist names and project descriptions, logos of partners, a route map, timetable and road safety rules

Misc A summary: The four components of Art Spin Berlin

Details can be overwhelming. Here are the four essential things you need to have to make a good Art Spin tour:

The locations (tour stops)
Creative and unconventional. The tour consists of 5-6 stops in both public space and at private locations. The venues that host artistic projects are unique and meaningful to the neighbourhood and do not have to be connected with art to be included on the tour. Artists create site-specific works to reflect the importance of these spaces.

The artists and artworks
Local and international. Artists come from a variety of artistic disciplines (Installation, film, video, performance, sound, dance, theatre) and create new works specifically for the Art Spin tour. Artworks have to be easily viewed by large audiences and are usually in some way interactive. It is important that artists reflect social/political topics facing the neighbourhood in an educational, critically engaging way.

The Participants
Participants are both the cyclists who are with us on the tour, as well as the residents of the neighbourhood who encounter us by chance. Participants ride together in one large group and also experience the artworks in the same way. The tour is open to everyone and riders should feel welcome and included.

The tour itself
The route is carefully planned to offer cyclists an alterative perspective of the city and is around 10km long. The ride connects each stop and creates a sustainable sense of community by riding together in a large group.