Wheels of Courage Spotlight: Vero Warkentin’s Artbike Project

WHEELS OF COURAGE (WoC) is the WRENCH’s community leadership volunteer program! Today we’re introducing you to one of the projects currently on the go and the WoC participant who is managing it. VERO WARKENTIN is a recent returnee to Manitoba and signed on with WoC after spending the summer working as a mechanic at the WRENCH.

Vero has recruited some fellow Wrenchers and local artists to create beautiful artbikes that will be raffled off, with proceeds going to another Logan Ave. organization — drop-in and resource centre Sunshine House, Inc! Keep reading for a Q&A with Vero.

Q: How did you come up with your project idea?

A: In 2019, I volunteered for the Rainbow Railroad Gala and loved every part of it: the mission, the people, the party, the camaraderie. I was determined to help for the next year. When the pandemic began, the need to support vulnerable communities was magnified. I wanted to create an event that would both support and foster the 2SLGBTQIA community with bikes, and building colourful, proud and magnificently artful bikes was a no-brainer. I’ve been creative my entire life, and that spark has been seen and fanned by incredible artists and teachers in the past. This project is my turn to inspire. For me its less about my own ability to create art, and more about my recognition of the artists in my life and directing the huge impact art can have.

Q: Who are the artists you’ve enlisted? 

A: So far, we have a collection of artists, mechanics and artist-mechanics giving their time to this project. Keira Friesen is a potter and mixed media artist who incorporates organic and natural forms in her work. Kevin Celestino is a WoC mentee, fellow Wrencher and visual artist. Leslie Parisien is a fellow WoC mentee and Wrencher, and sometimes textile artist. Sarah Thiessen is a creative jack of all trades, creating visual art, sculptures and performance art to delight and dazzle. 

Q: What is an artbike?

A: An artbike is kind of how it sounds: a bike, but art! You could say it’s a type of kinetic sculpture. A bike that is still rideable that looks like a dragon, or has been yarnbombed, or has been painted, or welded up to be a giant man powered parade float — these are all artbikes. It also doesn’t have to be a special occasion bike. You could ride a sparkle unicorn bike with streamer tail to the office every day. I know I would.

Q: Why did you choose Sunshine House as the beneficiary of the funds you are raising? 

A: Sunshine House is a vivid space that supports the community as they are. It makes room for whole people with all of our complications, experiences, expressions. At the base of it, bikes are like this too: freedom on wheels, for everyone. It’s a great pairing, and I’m so excited about the possibilities for our Pride Ride in June, the wrap up celebration after the raffle is completed in May.