This unique non-profit has been going strong since 1995, when it was started by the energetic Kim Young with a series of grants that helped fund a program that focused on teaching kids in at-risk communities the intricacies of bike repair. BICAS has evolved into a warehouse basement-sized workshop and classroom that hosts numerous workshops for after-school programs, Mexican charitable organizations, artists and the community at large.
"The heart of BICAS is that everybody is equal--there is no hierarchy," explains Allen Reilley, another co-director. "Saturday classes are a good example of how this place functions. Everyone is mostly working on their own projects but we ask that everyone does one job before they leave. It's an exchange of pride in yourself and us. What's yours is ours."
The spirit of BICAS is in community, in teaching people to get along, instilling pride in work and encouraging the appreciation of much that often goes by the wayside, into the dump. BICAS has been generating that spirit not only on a local level, but in the border regions as well. They have taught workshops and donated bicycles to various organizations such as Fundación Apoyo Infantil, a youth advocacy organization in Ciudad Obregón, Sonora. The International Sonoran Desert Alliance has been instrumental in coordinating other exchanges in the past, including work with a public school in Mexicali.
Through Gifford's efforts, BICAS has designed its own style of recycled, transportation-oriented bike. It has been a very successful venture; the group is teaching people how to build and maintain bikes as well as putting the bicycles back on the road. Those who take the 8-week course can build themselves a bike and build one to be sold by BICAS. As Kevin McKee, a volunteer-cum-worker remarked, "The most satisfying thing is seeing a bike I built being ridden and loved. I know we're doing something good for the community and for the people."
Three years ago a third component of the non-profit, BICAS Metalworks, started to create unique pieces for the annual BICAS art auction. Now spearheaded by welder Mike Shih, the group makes functional art out of bicycle parts, strictly on commission. The sculptures can been seen around town at the Tucson House, the eastside Trader Joe's and a bus stop on North Oracle Road. Recently they installed bike sculptures in several traffic circles throughout the Midtown Neighborhood. While many of those have unfortunately been vandalized, BICAS is keeping a positive attitude: "Now we know that we just have to make them stronger as a result," says Reilley.
This Saturday BICAS will hold its fourth annual art auction to help fund its various activities. In years past the group has solicited donations from prominent local artists like Steven Eye, Chris Devine, Pasqualina Azzarello, Gwyneth Scally, Matt Cotten, Lillie Strout and others. Last year's event yielded upwards of $3,000 through the sale of lamps, mailboxes, toilet paper dispensers, tables, bike racks, paintings, jewelry and more. The event is open to everyone, and any and all bike-related art will be accepted for auction, in hopes of earning money to help people-power the people.