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Barnes Foundation teams with Indego to put great works of art on Philly bikes

On Wednesday, the Barnes Foundation announced that it will be partnering with Indego, Philadelphia's bike-share program, to wrap famous paintings on Indego's bikes. The bikes will be launched on Sept. 14.

A fleet of 10 bikes wrapped in paintings from the Barnes collection is set to hit the streets Sept. 14 in a collaboration between the museum and Indego. Ten more will follow next spring.
A fleet of 10 bikes wrapped in paintings from the Barnes collection is set to hit the streets Sept. 14 in a collaboration between the museum and Indego. Ten more will follow next spring.Read moreCOURTESY BARNES FOUNDATION AND INDEGO

Soon you'll be able to see famous artwork, maybe even a Van Gogh, zipping around Philadelphia on a bike.

The Barnes Foundation announced on Wednesday that it is partnering with Indego, Philadelphia's bike-share service, to wrap 20 bikes in paintings from the foundation's collection.

The first 10 bikes, wrapped in paintings chosen by the public, will be presented at a free open house called #BiketoBarnes that runs from 5 to 8 p.m.  Sept. 14. People can meet at bike shops around the city — the Barnes has a list of approved locations on its website — and bike together to the foundation on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, where Indego and Neighborhood Bike Works will be waiting to valet-park bikes, just as they would a car. You can also bike solo to the event if you don't want to participate in the meet-up.

Guests at the open house will be able to vote on paintings for the next 10 bikes, which will be rolled out in May 2018. In addition to keeping the Barnes collection and its special exhibit Mohamed Bourouissa: Urban Riders open late, there will be bike-riding lessons, giveaways, and pop-up talks about the art featured on the bikes.

"One of the things that we wanted to do was not just wrap bikes but … to provide an opportunity for people to engage here," said Shelley Bernstein, deputy director for digital initiatives and chief experience officer at the Barnes Foundation.

The foundation wants to keep the chosen paintings a surprise, hoping people will come to the open house or see the bikes on the streets of Philly once they've launched.

"They're definitely crowd-pleasers," Bernstein said. The foundation approached Indego about the partnership because it was inspired by the bikeshare program's reach in the city and its 2015 partnership with Mural Arts, in which artwork by local teens was wrapped on Indego bikes, she said.

"We thought it was a wonderful opportunity," said Aaron Ritz, transportation programs manager at the city's Office of Transportation and Infrastructure Systems. "We want [Indego] to be a resource that connects you to other resources."

The two-year-old bike-share program has 117 stations and 1,200 bikes. Its riders have taken more than a million trips throughout the city. With the launch of the program, Indego pass holders will receive free admission to the Barnes Foundation and can bring a friend for $5 off his or her admission for the year.

The 20 wrapped bikes will be spread throughout Indego stations in city. "They'll be everywhere," Bernstein said. "They go wherever the riders want to go and go back to where the riders want to park them."

Designers had to get creative with how they wrapped the paintings onto the bikes. They deconstructed prints of the paintings to fit them onto a bike frame, Bernstein said.

"It's not a complete representation of the painting on the bike," she added. "When you look at it, it's a painting that you're going to be really familiar with, but you're experiencing it in a new way."

Bernstein and Ritz hope the program will encourage more Philadelphians to use Indego and visit the Barnes. People can register online for Open House: #BiketoBarnes.