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Let the Race Begin

The American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) not only has art inside the three-floor building, but every year some art manages to float across mud, snow, sand, ice and even the Baltimore Harbor! This can only mean that it is once again time for the Kinetic Sculpture Race.

“The rules of creating a kinetic sculpture are as follows: it has to be art and human-powered,” said Theresa Segreti who is the Director of Design and Education at the AVAM.

“You see one part Amelia Earhart, Da Vinci with his flying machine, Huck Finn and a 15-foot pink poodle and a giant frog,” said Rebecca Hoffberger, who is the founder of AVAM.

According to Hoffberger, during the race a spectator could see any type of kinetic sculpture like a giant, bearded nurse’s head to a sculpture made of garbage.

Segreti said that the Kinetic Sculpture Race actually originated in California and has been going on for about 35 years.

“People are very ingenious, some start off as bikes and then are transformed to boats,” Segreti said.

Segreti explained that a great deal of planning and time goes into this race with advertising, volunteers, and design of the kinetic sculptures.

“The city helps with crazy costumes, organizing crowds and planning the race,” Segreti said.

Contestants for the race are located all over the east coast from Philadelphia all the way to North Carolina. Last year, 20 vehicles were in the race with four or more people to a team, making about 60 to 70 people in the actual race and 250 people volunteering for the race.

The race begins at Federal Hill Park and ends up in the Baltimore Harbor. People dressed as giant ladybugs, others wearing trash bags, bearded men in nurse’s uniforms, and many other crazy images, spectators see before their very eyes.

“Our mascot is a chicken, although it actually started off to be an eagle, but the eagle was drawn so badly that it looked like a chicken so it sort of morphed to a chicken,” Segreti continued.

This would explain why a spectator would probably see many people dressed up in chicken costumes directing traffic, while kinetic cops give out tickets for practically no reason.

“Bribing is allowed, cheating is allowed, the whole thing is that you are not to get caught doing those things, or you will get a penalty,” Segreti said.

“We also have wacky rules where the pilots of the structures have to jump off their vehicles and into the pond at Patterson Park to rescue a dummy with hula-hoops and ropes,” Segreti continued.

According to Segreti, the most coveted award at the race is the “Mediocre Award,” which is finishing in the middle.

“The race shows the artistry that connects science and art,” Hoffberger said.

Although the word “race” is in the title, according to Segreti it is not really a race considering the vehicles average only about 15 miles per hour!

Every year, AVAM tries to find a sponsor to underwrite the race. “Last year my boss put on a chicken costume and drove to Perdue Farms on the Eastern Shore to see if they would help us out,” said Marcia Semmes, who is the Director of Development at the museum. “They said maybe this year,” Semmes continued.

According to Segreti, the race is not about winning, but about getting the whole city together to participate and have fun.

“Every year poses new obstacles and every year we just see if we are all just going to survive,” Segreti continued.

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Fun at the Opening Ceremonies: Mud Doctors, Kinetic Kops and Kinetinauts were out in full force Saturday April 26 dressed in their most party-like attire for the fifth annual National East Coast Kinetic Sculpture Race, hosted by the American Visionary Arts Museum in Baltimore.

Winners of the 2003 East Coast Kinetic Sculpture Race: Team Bedlam won the coveted Mediocre Award in the fifth annual East Coast National Kinetic Sculpture Race.