Love and light—those are the two words that come to mind when we think of Juan Martinez. His art is magical and his spirit overflows with warmth and kindness. We’re super fans. In our estimation, Juan is quite simply, a hero. With some specifics, our Executive Director Amanda Uhle would like to step in:
He took a pretty wild idea—turning bicycles into metal animals that convey passengers—and breathed life into it. For various reasons, our time and money were short, and somehow, Juan not only built a larger than life-sized bicycle-based bison and pangolin, but he did so with grace and ease and joy. It was a little like the experience of having a dream and then seeing parts of the dream come tangibly to life. This is all thanks to Juan’s remarkable artistic talent and metal working skills, which he pairs with a superhuman energy and an unwavering commitment to our community. At many points in the process of our work together, Juan’s asked, “How can we involve 826michigan students?,” or he’s suggested we recruit neighborhood young people interested in metalsmith apprenticeship opportunities to join us for future bike projects. And whenever there’s an opportunity to use the bikes or this project to engage Detroiters, he’s there. I’ve ridden these bikes through the city with Juan more than once, and between the eye-catching dazzle of the bikes and the many long and meaningful conversations Juan gets into, it always takes longer than we plan.
In addition to the animal bike project, Juan has used his talent and time to support 826michigan in other important ways. For the Detroit Robot Factory store, he’s building an interactive 9 foot tall robot and a you-will-only-believe-it-when-you-see-it book vending machine/ferris wheel. Both of these projects will debut later in 2017.
Have you got a greater understanding of why Juan is amazing now? We are so honored to call him friend and have so much of his artwork contribute to the whimsy and wonder in our 826michigan space. We encourage you to learn more about him and his projects. His most prominent artistic contribution to 826michigan—The Spirit of the Animals is in the Wheels—is an art and community project by Dave Eggers & Juan Martinez. See a short film on the project here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_JKvjR7UXQ.