Art Ross and the Kinetic Sculpture Race

Art Ross, Fabrication Technician, contributes this story.

On the first Saturday of May for the past 19 years, a bit of insanity has descended on the city of Baltimore in the form of the Kinetic Sculpture Race.

Kinetic Sculptures are amphibious, human powered works of art custom built for the race. Each May, the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) hosts the East Coast Kinetic Sculpture Race Championship on the shore of Baltimore’s Harbor in central Maryland.  The eight-hour race covers 14 miles—mostly on pavement, but also including a trip into the Chesapeake Bay and through mud and sand.

For the last six years I have had the fun of working as a volunteer at this event. I have concentrated my efforts into the group known as the “flock of chickens”. The task of this group is to engage the crowd that is viewing the race and collect votes for the most popular sculpture. Each year the race has a theme that isn’t announced until several weeks before the event. One year the first Saturday of May happened to be on the 5th so that year the theme was Cinco de Mayo.  Last year it was Myths and Monsters and this year the theme was Food - coinciding with an exhibit at the Museum. Each year it is a bit of a race to revise or rebuild my chicken costume to match the theme.  Here I am, in costume as a Cinco de Mayo chicken, FrankenChicken, and a Chicken Sandwich.

I have added my own touch to the assigned task. In addition to collecting votes, I hand out Dum Dum brand suckers. I give them out to the kids of course, but I make an effort to give them to adults as well. The delight on the face of a “grandmother” who is always giving but never expecting to be offered a treat is especially fun. Last year I gave out about 600 of these treats. 

It’s amazing how many social “norms” you can break when you are dressed in a silly costume, not the least of which is taking candy from a stranger. 

To see the sculptures or for more information see: