Zane’s Cycles in Branford is putting a unique spin on art. For the past several years, the self-proclaimed “world-famous” retailer of high-end bicycles and the related accoutrements has held competitions that invite local artists to create cycling-inspired pieces. The most recent was a T-shirt design contest, the only stipulation being that the art must incorporate the store’s iconic “Z.” The culmination of the competition—including a creative display of the finalists and the selection of the winner—took place in early April during Zane’s annual Big Wheel Sale. “We chose the top five designs, hung those T-shirts in the store, and cranked out reproductions to sell during the weekend,” explains Tom Girard, director of retail operations. “The top seller became the grand prize winner, and that design is now featured on the official Zane’s T-shirt for 2014, available for sale the rest of this year at both our Branford and Fairfield stores.”
The winning design, featuring an old-fashioned penny-farthing bicycle, is the handiwork of Branford artist Charles Santarpia. A self-taught artist, he grew up minutes away from the Yale Art Gallery, where he spent hours ogling the masters’ works, though he didn’t take up painting until he was 30. Santarpia describes his photo-realism style as falling somewhere between Edward Hopper and Peter Paul Rubens.
The previous two years, Zane’s had sponsored a sculpture competition. A crafty take on recycling, the contest presented participating artists each a box filled with an assortment of the store’s myriad used parts—frames, wheels, chains, cables, gears, and other bicycle stuff that’s traditionally bound for the junkyard. The task was to transform the parts into an interconnected whole with a cycling theme. The finalists’ sculptures were unveiled during the Big Wheel Sale, judged by an expert panel, then exhibited in the store afterward. Many of the whimsical pieces are still there. Others were ultimately sold, the proceeds going to The Zane Foundation, a non-profit organization providing college scholarships to local high school students. “This is what Zane’s is all about,” says proprietor-cum-curator Chris Zane, “bringing people together for the fun and healthy enjoyment of bicycling.”
Image Credits: Illustration courtesy of Zane's Cycles