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  • Sculpture pays tribute to bats and bikes

    Nov 06, 2015 | Read More News
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    Batty biker sculptureFolks bicycling or jogging along the Broadway bridge over the Pantano Wash will be greeted by a bat. This one’s not darting under the bridge, scarfing mosquitoes, though. It’s perched atop a pole and riding a bicycle.

    The “batty biker” metal sculpture is the work of artist Stephen Fairfield, whom Pima County hired to create the public art along The Loop, Pima County’s 100-plus miles of shared-use linear park pathways connecting several river parks and municipalities. 

    As is standard on all construction projects, one percent of the final cost is set aside for public art. The county works with the Tucson Pima Arts Council to identify artists whose talents match the project’s goal.

    The Pantano River path construction added a new 12-foot asphalt multi-use path from Broadway Boulevard to Kenyon Drive, filling a missing gap in the Pantano linear park. Also included in the $1.5 million construction was an underpass, pedestrian bridge, new culvert and ancillary items such as barricade railing and erosion-control elements. 

    “This is a key link in The Loop system, allowing for a traffic-separated crossing of Broadway Boulevard, and fitting within a tight already-developed corridor,” said Nancy Cole, who oversaw the construction for Pima County’s Project Management Office.

    For this project, county officials sought artwork that would recognize the many Mexican free-tailed bats who roost under bridges along The Loop. Several times a year, Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation offers “bat viewings” where naturalists and volunteers answer questions about the winged visitors.

    Loop fans liked the batty biker, which was installed in April, so much that more sculptures are planned along the Rillito River, said Cole. “We’ve decided to do a continuing series, since there are multiple locations on the loop that bring together bikers and bats and bridges.”

    Next up is a batty biker family, which will be installed near the Campbell Avenue bridge, said Fairfield, the artist. Papa Bat will be in mid-bite of munching a moth, Mama Bat holds a parasol aloft and Baby Bat is clutching a teddy bear. The idea to place the family on a tandem bike, with one bat eating a bug, came from County Administrator and Loop enthusiast Chuck Huckelberry, said the artist.

    Fairfield hopes to have the bat family installed in February. A third sculpture of a bat riding a mountain bike is planned near Kory Laos BMX Park, located within Flowing Wells Park.

    Fairfield holds a Ph.D. in molecular biology, but traded his science career for life as a painter and sculptor when he and his spouse moved to Arizona in 1997. The trial and error of art “is very much like science,” Fairfield said, “except you don’t need a hypothesis.”