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Outdoor Sport as Art

March 20, 2005

It seems to me that outdoor sports are a good place for the visual arts. First, we have a chance with the fashion. Then with the bikes and canoes (and small sails, say) we have another totally easy chance to make visual statements.

You can tell that lots of sports people, product and sponsor designers DO try to make a bit of art in what they do. But there's so much more that could be done.

In particular I think that canoe racing could make a nice palette to display an artistic vision.

It seems like a couple N. Am. races have at least 50k spectators and parades associated with them. But most race teams use the same black canoes and a mix-matched team outfit of t-shirts and baseball hats.

I wonder what kind of vision would look supercool with paddlers going along the surface of the water... boat, paddles and paddlers could all merge in a special appearance of some kind.

I notice that sports teams and sponsored projects also often get fancy decals for their cars, vans and vehicles to turn them into big ads. Well, ads can look better or worse. I wonder what a set of decals costs. Probably a lot---they seem just like they were painted on. Still, there might be more art potential there than we realize.

Ever try to buy ad space? Traditional media are being catastrophically assaulted by mega-corporate behavior---and ads seem to cost a huge amount as they all have to get by with so few ads now compared to 20 years ago. A simple classified ad in a newspaper can easily cost $200 a week. Ha! No wonder papers are avoided like the plague by normal people---and filled with huge corporate drivel.

Well...sport sponsorship----especially outdoor sports----is dirt cheap in comparison. A team would likely be happy to have you give them a set of clothes and let you put what you like on them. Bigger teams might appreciate $500 along with the deal, or some such. Of course this goes all the way up to the Tour de France, but the bottom goes all the way down to the grassroots. The result seems to be lots of exposure either way. If you created a look for a canoe race team, and made a dye-printed canoe cover for when the boat is carried on a roof rack...and maybe even some vehicle decals...you'd get billboard-like exposure on the highway every weekend all summer, plus impact while training and lots of spectator viewing in the big races. And a great 'look' would likely be photographed and end up in media.

Bike race teams are often colorful, more so than canoe-teams, but they usually end up as a chaos of color, even when everyone wears the same team jersey!

This isn't just a business ad interest.

What happens when most artists try to get their work displayed in a gallery? --They're rejected. No display is the typical artist fate. Not so with this kind of multimedia sports art. But if you do get into a gallery, how many people see your work? A couple hundred? Also, you're preaching to the converted to an extent, for the better and the worse. What happens when you bring your vision to the countryside? ---People who don't see much art will see your work. Cool!

Most bike teams aren't big or well-sponsored or even hardly sponsored at all. If you spent a thousand bucks you could get a dozen jerseys, shorts and bike and vehicle decals, all splashed with whatever vision you liked. What statement could be made with a dozen riders rolling down the road? Or with their bikes on top of the designated team car? If one's vision worked and was exciting it probably wouldn't be too hard to find a team that would jump at the chance to make a statement that way. --And a bike team is probably seen by well over a hundred thousand people in a summer. They're on the road or driving the highway for hours every day of the week. How many people see them? Lots! What a neat---and ultra-underused---palette for sharing your vision with the world!

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