The seven Lowrider bikes on display in Snyder Hall’s LookOut! Gallery don’t have many miles on them, but the meaning behind the American Indian-themed vehicles is more of a metaphorical journey than a physical one.
Each of the bikes symbolize one of the seven grandfather teachings of the American Indian community, said Dylan Miner, an assistant professor of transcultural studies who is in charge of the exhibit, officially titled “Anishnaabensag Biimskowebshkigewag: Native Kids Ride Bikes.”
The teachings that the bikes were built to embody are wisdom, love, respect, bravery, truth, humility and honesty, Miner said.
Unique bike decorations, such as turtle shells, seat cover upholstery and color arrangements, are intended to reflect these values.
The bikes are on display at the gallery through Sept. 28. It’s open Monday through Friday from noon to 2 p.m. and is free to the public.
“The intention is to use (the bikes) to travel around,” he said. “The money we get from exhibiting them at different places we’ll use to continue to do arts programming for native kids here in Mid-Michigan.”
After receiving a grant from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian last summer, Miner began to enlist the help of students from both MSU and local high schools last January to begin the project.
Residential College in Arts and Humanities senior Tyler Fleming has been working with Miner on the bikes since the beginning of the project. Fleming got involved while he was enrolled in one of Miner’s classes.
“A lot of what I did was more of the mechanical — putting together the bikes, helping the young kids put together the bikes,” he said. “The point was to get the young folks to see they’re capable of building something like this.”
The first five bikes were built at Lansing Eastern High School with the school’s Native American Club who met once a week, Miner said. The final two were built by middle school kids at a summer camp hosted by the Indigenous Youth Empowerment Program in Lansing and were overseen by both Fleming and Miner. The entire exhibit was completed by June, Miner said.
“There’s no long-term plans (for the bikes),” Miner said. “There’s a variety of different things we’re going to do with them. In the near future, they’re going to travel to be exhibited in different places.”
Although Fleming himself doesn’t identify with any indigenous group from North America, he valued the opportunity to both help and teach local youth with his involvement in this project.
“A lot of these kids (that helped on the project) are traditionally labeled as the bad kids in school,” he said.
“What I’ve found rewarding through all this is that when you build a genuine relationship with these kids, they’re capable of anything.”
Social work junior Megan Kelly was the moderator for the LookOut! Gallery on the exhibit’s opening day and already noticed an influx of interest.
“I feel like there was more traffic coming through than there are with some of the other exhibits,” Kelly said. “(Students would be interested) because it involves more of the community, and it’s something that we can all relate to in bikes.”
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