update on the ypsi bike-powered movie project

I sent this note out last night to everyone on the project’s mailing list. As I thought that some of you might like to hear about the progress we’ve made thus far, I thought that I’d also post it here. If you’d like to have your name added to the email list, so that you receive future updates, just send me a note or leave a comment.

Sorry it’s taken me a while to get this update out. I’ve been busy thinking of ways to get the money we need to buy the generators and other things required to make this happen. Among others, I talked with Tamara Real, the Director of the Arts Alliance. She mentioned their organization’s mini-grants, and encouraged me to give it a shot, assuming, of course, we could find a certified 501c3 non-profit to act as financial fiduciary. Fortunately, when I mentioned this to Richard Murphy at City Hall, he put me in touch with the Erik Dotzauer, the Director of the Depot Town Community Development Corporation (CDC) – the organization that had just taken responsibility for Riverside and Frog Island Parks. Erik was extremely enthusiastic about the project, and offered to work with me on the grant application, which, I’m happy to report, we completed and submitted August 1. If it comes through, we should have all the money we need to acquire the generators, the DC-AC inverter, the audio broadcast unit, and everything else we need to begin production of the infrastructure.

So, what started out as a little guerilla project has kind of grown a bit in scope. Now, assuming we get the funding, instead of just doing this once with a few friends, we’ll be doing it several times. What we proposed in the grant application was that, this winter, we’d have two smaller indoor showings, during which we’ll test the system, and then, assuming everything goes well, three outdoor events, starting in the spring. Matt and Rene Greff have offered the use of the Corner Brewery for the indoor events, and Erik assures me that it won’t be a problem to schedule Riverside Park for the others. Of course, now that we’re trying to do everything legitimately, it’s getting expensive. There are the fees to rent the park, the costs to rent the portable toilets, the expense of having the police patrol the area, and, on top of it all, the liability insurance that’s required. So, it’s getting expensive, but I still think it’s still manageable. I’ve talked with a few groups, and I suspect they’d be willing to invest some money to see free, bike-powered movies in the park.

Like I said, though, the Arts Alliance funding might not come through. If that’s the case, we’ll begin looking elsewhere. I’ve got to believe that there are organizations out there who would love to fund a community-building project like this that brings together alternative energy, physical activity and the arts in such a novel way.

So, what’s the next step?

Once we secure funding to purchase the electronics, I’d like to formally launch a number of committees to look into the various aspects. I may have missed a few things, but here are my first thoughts on what those committees might be:


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  1. Reclusion
    Posted August 5, 2008 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    I think your time in the near future would be better spent having an Iggy Pop equipment fundraiser.


  2. Dirtgrain
    Posted August 5, 2008 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    You rock, Mark. I’ll help, although I don’t know how valuable that help would be (“Don’t worry. My dad’s got an awesome set of tools. We can fix it.”). I can help with bike building, moving stuff, maybe writing/marketing, and other stuff, and security–I have nunchucks. I also donate my awesome calves.

  3. applejack
    Posted August 5, 2008 at 12:38 pm | Permalink


    I think this is a great idea. I’d like to help out. The link above is to an article I found in Make magazine about a similar project, but with only one bike, and, I imagine, a much smaller projection. But still it might be useful. I can bring the print version of the article if there’s another meeting.
    Personally, I think hauling four stationary bikes around to the showings along with the other equipment is too much extra work. I imagine the stationary ones produce energy more efficiently, but I think extra drive-up participants should be easy enough to come by.

    Also, I’ll throw out this idea here since it is somewhat related and I think Ypsi is a place that could use it: a co-operative workshop.
    Like a tool shed and garage that everyone can come and use. Living in an apartment means I have no real workspace for art projects or fixing/making thing. Not to mention power tools are prohibitively expensive for my own casual usage.
    We could have a big space with community tools of all kinds that folks could come and use (at a reduced rate if you’re a member, or just pay as you go). You could rent a roto-tiller for your garden, or build a coffee table for less than it’d cost you to drive to ikea. There could be woodworking classes, or screen printing, or pottery.
    I think it’d be great for the community and for the artists and diy folks in ypsi.

  4. Posted August 5, 2008 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    I think the idea of a cooperative workshop is a great one. I’m going to mention it to Bike Ypsi folks. (BTW, I think Growing Hope is planning a tool “library” for gardening equipment.)

  5. Brackache
    Posted August 5, 2008 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Holy shit applejack, that’s a fantastic idea and I’m totally on board. I was just lamenting my lack of workshop space yesterday. We could even offer little classes on various techniques if the opportunity and desire were there.

    How would we deal with people breaking equipment or cutting their peni off?

    I would also suggest that it be open all night, if possible.

  6. applejack
    Posted August 5, 2008 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    Yeah I think a problem with community owned equipment is that nobody would take as good care of the stuff as they would if it were their own property. We could certainly have a check-in/check-out system so we know who is using what tool at what time, and charge them if it’s damaged, but a lot of the damage will be too small to penalize someone for, but still adds up quickly to a worn out tool. I’m not sure the best method other than building a sense of obligation in everyone borrowing to treat the tools well.

    Regarding your concern over penile injuries, I think a liabilities waiver would need to be signed, and perhaps powertool usage would be restricted to adults. Most standard home-improvement tools like drills and saws could just be ‘use at your own risk’, but I was thinking about this earlier, and with more advanced equipment or techniques like welding it’s not only a safety issue, but also effects the longevity of the tools, and the quality of the end product. So maybe there should be short classes you have to take on proper usage. And then you’d get a stamp on your membership card that says ‘basic carpentry certified’ or ‘advanced metallurgy certified’. Like boyscout badges to show off your proficiency.

  7. Posted August 5, 2008 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been slowly gathering information about tool libraries over time – they range anywhere from the public library that lends out cake pans to the North Portland OR group with jigsaws and table saws to the spendy $100/mo TechShop in Menlo Park CA with laser cutters.

    Lots of ways to slice this onion and a bunch of workable examples.

  8. Brackache
    Posted August 6, 2008 at 12:07 am | Permalink

    applejack: I meant people cutting off their peni on purpose.

    How would clean-up responsibilities be shared?

  9. Posted August 6, 2008 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    I can do some looking into the legal issues involved, if you like, but I would totally understand if you elected to have someone else handle it, what with all my “hatred of the city and everything it does.”

    Let me know if I can be of service. Mark.

  10. Posted August 6, 2008 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    Oooh! Pick me! I can has writing skllz. Or maybe volunteer coordinating?

  11. mark
    Posted August 6, 2008 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    All are welcome beneath the big tent of the Ypsilanti Bike Powered Movie Project. It’s good to have you on the team, Cam. And the same goes for the rest of you.

    As for the grant, I heard today that the Arts Alliance had four or five times as many applicants as they’d expected. So, the odds are against us. I’m optimistic, though… Keep your fingers crossed.

  12. interested citizen
    Posted March 18, 2009 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    I’ve been following this blog for years but never comment. My shyness extends right into the blogosphere. Here goes my first stab at this.

    I love this idea and coincidentally I work for a local engineering firm who is actively seeking to contribute to the community. We have tools–a whole warehouse full of them and, of course, engineering and tech expertise. If there’s anyway that we can contribute, I’d like to discuss it and then possibly propose the idea to my company. I don’t think they’d dole out any money but may be interested in donating time or effort.

  13. Posted March 18, 2009 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Still looking to do some kind of benefit show for Ypsi food/energy independence too.

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