Life at Biking Speed: The Hobo Art Walk on Riverside Drive

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One of my favorite things about riding a bike is that it really combines the best of all transportation worlds. For errands within town, I often find walking to be prohibitively slow, which could point driving as the obvious choice. When I’m driving, though, I miss the level of observation that I get when I’m on foot – I like to be able to slow down and say hello to people that I know (read: pet all the dogs) or check out a shop or an event without the hassle of maneuvering the car and finding parking. Bikes shine because they get you around town almost as quickly as cars do, but they’re super nimble when you want to stop and explore. This came home to me this weekend when, while biking home from a grocery run, I stumbled upon the Hobo Art Walk.

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Several times as I’ve walked, jogged or biked along Riverside between the Hub and the Booth Street bridge, I’ve noticed little piles of river rocks that suddenly come into focus as mini sculptures. The first time I saw one, I thought it was a cute one-off. Then I started seeing them more and more frequently, though always just one or two at a time. This weekend as I biked by, I noticed that there were a whole bunch of them dotting the grass up and down the riverbank. When I actually saw a guy tinkering with one, I pulled my bike over to say hi and check them out more closely.

It turns out the force behind the rock sculptures is a friendly guy named Cyrus, who was happy for me to take some photos and stop for a chat. I was surprised to learn that he’s been making this kind of art off and on for more than 25 years. Even more surprising was that he takes the sculptures down every night and puts them back up every morning. He seemed to like the ephemeral nature of the project, making little adjustments and moving his figures around as the seasons and the river change. As I spoke to him, he was adjusting the posture of one of his reclining figures, and it was basically magic how fast he was able to shuffle the rocks around and give the piece a whole new attitude. This guy probably knows the physical dynamics of river rocks better than anyone on the planet.

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Cyrus, the artist, was perfecting this little guy’s coiff when I rolled up.
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Gah!

Cyrus told me he had just hosted his fifth “Hobo Art Love” event the day before. For these events, he makes more permanent sculptures (still made from river rock, but bolted together) and sells them on Riverside. But instead of keeping all the proceeds, he asks the buyers to pay the price forward to those on the street that need help. He estimated that the weekend’s event put $500 into needy hands. Regardless of your opinions of the Downtown homeless population and the ethics of giving money to people who beg, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a nicer guy who’s making a more positive impact in a community that matters to him.

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My favorite, of course.

Cyrus seemed genuinely content to see people out enjoying his creations, but he also had a bucket for donations, so next time I go by I’m definitely going to bring a few bucks to contribute. When I got home I found a nice KOLO piece with a little more information about the Hobo Art Walk, which you can check out here. If you’d like to see it in person, take your bike down to the Hub on Riverside for a coffee and have a wander along the river. It’s such a mellow, positive, community-based way to spend a half-hour: in short, all the things I love about bikes and Reno.

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