The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Jul 25, 2013

Turning bikes into works of art, Detroit's East Side Riders are up for the People's Choice Award

Posted by Valerie Nahmad


Now through Aug. 9, five small Detroit arts organizations are vying for the Knight Arts Challenge People’s Choice Award, offering a $20,000 prize. Below, Dywayne Neeley of nominee East Side Riders, a group of artists who customize bikes as their means of creative expression, talks about why his group should get your vote. To see the other nominees and to text to vote, visit

Q. What would you do with the $20,000 prize?

 A. The East Side Riders have a chance to purchase a building on the east side of Detroit where we would invest in a bike shop. The prize would be split up in the best way possible to keep the bike shop, the East Side Riders Bike Club and the community healthy and strong. Bike parts are needed to fill the shop. The kids in the community would like to build bikes with their own hands. Classes would be held on a regular basis. The building would also be a part of the new Detroit.

Q. Why should your group win the People’s Choice Award?

 A. We have an opportunity to enhance the community and ourselves in a positive, uplifting way. Our community will stay strong if we have goals, activities and communication. Maybe we will be able to reach out to other communities and create a state or nation-wide newfound love for custom-built bikes. Buildings in Detroit are falling apart faster everyday, We have a chance to revamp old, torn apart eyesores that were once full of life, upgrade the building with new parts and paint with help from anyone and everyone that would like to take part in turning this old beautiful city of Detroit into a new creation made by the hands of Detroiters. If we show what we can do and have been doing, others may become interested in buying the buildings surrounding ours and the next thing you know Gratiot Street is flooded with tourists and everyday people driving down the new strip going to work or shopping. There are no other bike shops oh the east side of Detroit, nor have been for some time now. The benefits of opening a new bike shop are many for all of east Detroit.

 We have been on a mission to better ourselves and the community for years on are own now. We do whatever it takes to ride and share in the experience with family and friends and any newcomers. We will continue to ride around Detroit on the lookout for some old bike laying in the trash, take it home and bring life back into an almost forgotten treasure. The peoples choice award money would help the East Side Riders do so much more good and keep us busy with putting Detroit back to its greatness.

 Q. What excites you most about the creative momentum in Detroit?

 A. The creative momentum in Detroit excites us in the fact that its the rebirth of a city that has been through it all. The East Side Riders have pride in the city of Detroit and the people. The East Side Riders have taken the time to beautify, rebuild and uplift not only our own community but our surrounding community and downtown. From the artwork on the old buildings to the flowers planted throughout the Detroit streets to the boardwalk, inspiration is everywhere.

The bike movement grows more everyday and is appreciated much like a old car. We put our love and sweat into everything from building our bike to community work to just having fun with all the pictures the people love to take of our bikes. We are approached many times throughout our rides and asked where to go for a bike built like that. One day we would like to be able to tell them an address.

To see all Knight Arts Challenge People’s Choice Award nominees and to learn how to vote, visit

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