Minneapolis is known as a great arts town, and a great biking town, so a show featuring bike posters by local artists would seem like a natural.
However, even the founder of Artcrank is amazed by how a one-off show seven years ago has become an international phenomenon.
Artcrank sprang from the brain of Charles Youel.
"My love affair with bikes started shortly after I was able to navigate one under my own power," he recalled sitting in the Artcrank office in northeast Minneapolis. "And (I) discovered that it was probably going to be the closest thing to flight that I was going to experience during the course of my lifetime without other mechanical means."
The love affair continued into adulthood, when he began working in graphic design. He noticed many in his field were similarly bike-obsessed and decided to put on a show of bike posters made by local artists.
"It just seemed like putting the two together in a way that we could also create something that we could share with our friends and other people who love bikes in art and design form was just the thing to do," Youel said.
Youel hoped a few people might drop by, maybe even 50. On opening night, 500 showed up.
"Oddly enough, the one eventuality I wasn't prepared for was success," he said with a laugh.
One of the first Artcrank stars was Adam Turman, who now has a screen printing shop at his house in St. Louis Park. He and his associate, Brian Geihl, were getting a job ready recently.
"Right now, Brian is prepping the screen," Turman said. "He is putting tape on either edge right now so we don't have ink all over the press."
Turman had been making gig posters for rock bands playing round town, often featuring demurely seductive young women. When he heard about Artcrank, he jumped at the chance to blend the things he loved to draw in one poster.
"So the pin-up style, on a bike, with Minneapolis, like, literally set in type up above it, kind of combining all those things I am into," he said. "The city, pin-up girls and bicycles all in one."
Turman has had a poster in all of the Minneapolis Artcrank shows. His first Artcrank image launched a series that pays homage to biking in different parts of the Twin Cities.
He finds bikes endlessly inspiring. "They are also really complicated to draw," he said. "But that's sort of the challenge of it; that's the fun of it."
There's also the challenge of screen printing, lining up the artwork so the layers of different ink match perfectly.
Turman's poster this year is called "Always Take the High Road," featuring a fast-moving cyclist pounding his way up a high bridge with the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul in the background.
His partner, Geihl, also has a piece in this year's show, inspired by sketches of his own bike.
"With the wheel kind of turned to the side, and inside the wheel is the Minneapolis skyline," he said.
That combination of biking, local artists and local landmarks has spelled success for Artcrank. Youel said that after the first Minneapolis show, he received inquiries from all over the country --and ignored them at first.
He became interested after "the last full-time job I had disappeared in the current recession to end all recessions," he said, "and suddenly I had a lot of free time on my hands."
He began putting on shows around the country, and then Europe. He plans to do 14 Artcrank shows this year.
"We've got 11 shows in the U.S.," he said. "We'll have shows in the U.K., in both London and Manchester, the first show in Manchester this year, and we'll also have our first show in Paris."
But the local one is always special. Last year 4,000 people turned up at the opening. Organizers hope to top that Saturday night with a party at Grain Belt Studios in northeast Minneapolis. The show then moves to One on One Bicycle Studio in the Warehouse District.
For Youel, when the artists arrive with their posters it's like Christmas.
"After seven years now and literally thousands of posters later, I have never seen two that are exactly alike," Youel said. "And it always blows my mind how many ways people find to channel that inspiration that they get from bicycles into designs that are things that you would have never thought of."
Youel said he believes anywhere that bikes and artists exist, there could well be an Artcrank.