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A poster guy for bicycle advocacy

Founder Charles Youel says of ARTCRANK: “We want it to feel casual and open where people can drink a beer, walk around, and look at some bike art.”GRETCHEN TAYLOR/Gretchen Taylor

Bicycling and art? Six years ago in Minneapolis, Charles Youel found a way to combine the two in ARTCRANK, an event that invites local artists to design posters about bikes and cycling, then produces limited editions to sell. In Boston, where ARTCRANK is launching on July 20, Widmer Brothers Brewing will sell beer and pint glasses with all proceeds going to Livable Streets, which advocates for bicycling and safety issues. Signed prints will sell for $40. The event will be at the Fourth Wall Project — and there will be bike valet parking.

Q. Are you a bicyclist or an artist yourself?


A. I was a cyclist first and a writer second. Both of those have led me to connecting with artists and designers.

Q. How did you come up with the idea for ARTCRANK?

A. Basically, I was bored with my job [working at an advertising agency]. . . . The guys that I rode bikes with were all designers and art directors. And when we were out riding, we’d do what people always do on bike rides, which is [complain] about our jobs. I figured we all loved bikes and art, so combining the two just made sense. I picked posters because I wanted the art to be as accessible as bikes are. You don’t have to drop $10,000 to take home a poster.

Q. What made you bring ARTCRANK to Boston?

A. I’ve been in contact with people in Boston since 2007. But we didn’t start adding cities to our event until 2009. We had to find enough combos of artists, find a host, and the funds to pull it off.

Q. How does the event work?

A. We start by choosing a group of local artists and designers who create posters about bikes — there are 25 artists in the Boston show. Then we throw parties where we sell posters. Admission’s free, there are no reservations or anything, it’s just really chill. We want it to feel casual and open where people can drink a beer, walk around, and look at some bike art.


Q. Are the artists you’re featuring also cyclists or involved in the cycling community?

A. We do not require artists to be avid cyclists to participate. Everybody has memories of learning to ride a bike, when the training wheels came off and they were flying under their own power. And I think our artists are able to tap into that feeling, even if they didn’t turn out to be bike fanatics.

Q. Who are some of the Boston artists?

A. Keith Zoo, an illustrator, does wild comic-book style that I think will translate well in a bike poster. Sarah Gay, who’s also an illustrator, has a completely different style, more realistic but with an amazing warmth to it. We don’t try to have the same style for all the posters.

Q. Tell about some of the charities you donate to.

A. While in Boston we will be donating to Livable Streets, which is a group that is for pedestrian and bike advocacy. We like to go into these communities and spend time with the artist and cyclists. Charities are how we show our appreciation to the community for letting us have this event. We’ve donated to the World Bicycle Relief, Bicycle Transportation Alliance, in Portland, Ore., and Livestrong.


Q. At the Boston event, Widmer Brothers Brewing (a Portland brewery) pint glasses will also be sold. How much of those proceeds go to charity?

A. It’s $5 for the pint glasses and $5 for two drink tokens. All of the proceeds of that will go to charity.

Q. Where is ARTCRANK’S next stop after Boston?

A. At the end of August we’ll be in Denver and in September we’ll be in New York. In October we’ll be in Portland and San Francisco.

Q. You meet creative people everywhere you go. Where would you say you’ve met the most creative people?

A. [Laughing] That question may get me into trouble. Every city always has a surprise waiting for me. How people capture cycling is always different. Where people ride, live, and work, it comes out in their posters. My favorite thing about the show is that, even after looking at literally thousands of posters about bicycles over the years, people still come up with stuff that blows me away. That never gets old.

Vanessa Fernandes can be reached at