Southeast Ankeny is one of Portland’s oldest and most well-known bicycling streets. It was a neighborhood greenway before the City of Portland even called them that (the previous name was bicycle boulevard).
If you’ve ridden on Ankeny around SE 18th you might have noticed two artistic bike parking sheds outside a business on the northeastern corner of the intersection. The gates around the bike racks are adorned with beautiful metalwork that represents natural scenes like the sun, flowers, and birds. And much of the materials used are old bike parts. I’ve seen the sheds for years and have always been curious about them.
This morning I chatted with their creator.
Richard Cawley was born in Portland and has been welding metal together in creative ways since he learned to weld at Portland Community College at the age of 15. Today at the age of 41, he owns and operates RichArt Sculpture and has completed projects for a variety of clients and events over the past two decades.
Cawley grew up riding his bike around the city and one of the first things he ever made was a metal sculpture of a cowboy. It was done for a contest hosted by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA, now The Street Trust) in 1996. “I won a bike in that contest, so that was cool,” Cawley shared on the phone today.
“My first shtick as a budding artist was making stuff out of bikes. I started chopping together bike part sculptures and loved the gears and mechanical aspects of them, making robots and techy-transformer kind of stuff.”
His metal cowboy got the attention of Bike Gallery and other shops who hired Cawley to build pieces for them. As he and his art matured, Cawley says he moved on to different materials. “Eventually I got kind of sick of it,” he recalled. “Unfortunately, the thing about bikes is they’re covered by chrome and it’s gross to weld with all the fumes and stuff.”
The Ankeny bike parking shed was installed in 2012. Cawley said he’d worked with the architect of the adjacent building before and he convinced the owners to have bike parking and make a statement befitting of what he calls “the Ankeny bike corridor”.
“Our theme for that project was nature and the environment. We pulled the outside world of trees and birds and waves together with bicycles.” A few of the pieces have been stolen over the years, but thanks to a thick powdercoat and layer of spray paint, it still looks great after nearly 10 years in the Portland weather.
The Ankeny bike shed is just one of Cawley’s large works around town. He also did the metalwork on a multifamily dwelling on North Albina Street across from Peninsula Park and you can see his handiwork at all three Teote restaurants in town (Hawthorne, Alberta, and downtown).
When he’s not high up on a ladder welding a new creation, Cawley helps run the Manifestation PDX makerspace at 2020 SE Bush. He and a few artist friends also run the nonprofit Portal Arts Collective, a community art space that uses recycled materials to create ecological-themed sculptures to raise awareness for endangered animals.
Learn more at RichArtSculpture.com.