Zoobomb Pyle

Sculpture  co-created with Brian Borrello and Zoobomb
made with support from the Regional Arts and Culture Council
thanks to the Zoobombers and former Portland Mayor Sam Adams

Every Sunday evening since early in the ‘aughts, bicyclists of all kinds gather at SW 13th and Burnside Street in downtown Portland to take their bikes on the city’s light rail up the hill to the Portland Zoo. There, participants, many of whom are on tiny child-size mini bikes or in costume, or tall bikes, ‘bomb’ the steep hills in darkness. The weekly event emphasizes freedom, joy and bikes, and to some degree, safety. Prior to 2009, the Zoobombers commandeered a downtown staple rack by stacking several dozen children’s bicycles into a  ‘bike library’ that were available to interested riders on Sunday evenings, but the ‘Pyle’ was deemed a hazard by the city and outlawed. Brian Borrello and Vanessa Renwick won the commission to create the ‘People’s Bike Library’  and the ensuing sculpture was deemed safe for use. A plinth with a steel spiral topped by a 24kt. golden, Z-sprocketed kid’s bike, the pyle is a monument to the most efficient form of transportation on earth combined with the true wealth of a city–a joyful population.

Brian Borrello and I have won the commission to create the new Zoobomb Pyle with the zoobombers.
Many thanks to the Regional Arts and Culture Council, Mayor Sam Adams and the Zoobombers.

Please allow us to submit ourselves to you for the Zoobomb Pyle.

The encroachment of public space by corporate and consumer interests leaves spaces such as this triangle to be very important for the creative health and vitality of our community. We find the possibilities of creating in these margins very appealing. The enclosed slides are meant to demonstrate the range of responses that we have created to a variety of unique locations and contexts. We try to provide the unexpected surprise, the sense of awe elicited from the extra-ordinary, the spark of imagination kindled by the art experience.

We have worked on many projects together over years- Wordsmith Project (addressing children's literacy- artists in Portland public schools doing writing and poetry conveyed through murals, videos, and neon and billboard signage in NE Portland); Taking Space/ Making Place, Transforming Urban Experience (an interactive exhibition at the AIA, with Linda K. Johnson and Mark Lakeman); numerous City Repair projects, and assorted co-fabricated objects for public display.


I must say that I was sad to hear about the legal and safety issues with the original Zoobomb Pyle, but I am excited about the idea of making a monumental legal and safe bike lock sculpture which carries the beauty of the Pyle, which as a cultural form relates to the hill that is descended, as well as screams community. The Zoobombers to me represent free in the truest sense, the freeness of the bikes, the freeness of the idea, and the freeness of the feeling experienced while bombing down the hill. This is something that is Portland, and I don’t want to see the spirit of the Pyle vanished in the new form taken. Zoobomb Pyle is rad! Beautiful! But we can enhance it...make it better.

I love bikes; I commute daily on bikes and ride for pleasure. I used to be a bike messenger in Chicago, and my son is a bike mechanic now. I was messengering when I was pregnant with him!
I rode thru Mexico and up the west coast. I made that video, The Yodeling Lesson, of Moe Bowstern bombing Mississippi hill naked, no hands on the handlebars.

I like making things sometimes that isn’t just about “ sit on your butt and stare at a movie screen”. The interactive installations I have made and have had in public and private spaces have been used a lot, a hit. To make something that is utilitarian as well as inspirational and ethereal…this is what I propose we can do. A bicycle beacon illuminating the form of our steeds.
 The chance to work with Brian Borrello and you guys sounds like a lot of fun to me.
And an honor.


I find the Zoobomb Pyle like a big bike battery charged with energy, anticipating asses for activation and downhill hurtling of flesh and metal and rubber. Its presence possesses something of an urban myth, like the Shanghai tunnels.

Besides my creations that smell of "public art," .I enjoy making similar "additions" to the urban landscape that challenge notions of private property, public space, and political correctness. These might be bikeracks, book stations, altered media signage, "alternate" historical signage, de-paved gardens, fallen meteorites, and unexplained presences on the street.
I have "customized" many, many bikes (for free) when I was neighbors with the Community Cycling Center and the Alberta Clown House. (After my rent tripled there,) I now have a studio on N. Greeley, where I have a welding and metalworking area, a neon fabrication area, and a cold glass working area for sandblast etching glass and stone. I have extensive experience with a variety of materials and techniques, in their costs, installation, and care. I am currently developing transit public art using wind and solar technologies. And in contrast to many "table-top" public artists, I personally engage in all aspects of the fabrication and installation of the work.

As an artist I try to engage the community, that will interact with and hopefully help shape, the public art that will become part of their daily experience. Although much of my public art practice has emerged through the rigorous and tedious process of interactions with committees, bureaucrats, and safety and maintenance personnel, there is another creative track that I pursue- assisting people to envision and to co-create meaningful places within their neighborhoods and communities. I regularly conduct "visioning" sessions with the public art and placemaking projects that I am involved in.  This allows the neighborhood constituency to be a part of the creative process, to weigh in on their plans and desires, and to share their vision for their environment.

Through my (and Vanessa's) work with City Repair (www.cityrepair.org), I have led visioning workshops, design charrettes, local production and installation of placemaking projects like the Sunnyside Piazza, Division St.'s Seven Corners, Arleta/ Mt.Scott Triangle Project, (all SE PDX), Albina Triangle Park (N PDX), Kings Corner and the Anarchists' Garden (NE PDX). The impulse in all these projects has been to create sustainable community assets using localized resources and appropriate technologies. Vanessa and I would of course enjoy sharing the full power of Zoobombers' imaginations through one or more visioning workshops.

We both try to activate the public realm with nourishment for the spirit and the imagination,with unexpected turns and surprises. The result of our Zoobomber collaboration would likely result in an iconic, larger-than-life art presence, that surpasses mere functionality of safety, resilience, and security- something that approaches the mythical and the outrageous.

We hope that you find us and our work compelling enough to consider us for co-creating the next incarnation of the Zoobomb Pyle with you.

Thanks for thinking on our proposal.

Yours truly,

Vanessa Renwick
Brian Borrello