4 ½ ft

4 ½ ft explores the American landscape by bicycle from the perspective of abandoned railroads, illuminating a new line across the country. It navigates the tension between the romance of the railroad and the complicated history of its making.

What do you get when you combine a large-scale art project, a California arts librarian, an interest in railroads and a bicycle ride across Nebraska?

4 ½ ft.

That’s the unusual name of the art project that is a reference to the width of railroads.

The person behind the project is Lisa Conrad, an Oakland, Calif.-based artist and librarian at the California College of Arts. She’s going to embark on a bicycle ride across Nebraska between May 30 and June 15.

What’s being described as a “performative work” is designed to draw a line by bicycle that illuminates an imagined parkway the length of the country along abandoned railroads.

Conrad and other artist-cyclists will be riding along the Cowboy Trail on a route that will ultimately end in Omaha and will include a camping stop in the Norfolk area. After Nebraska, they’ll bicycle across Iowa.

The ride across Nebraska is actually the third such excursion undertaken by the artist-cyclists. The team is riding west to east, exploring defunct railroads in the gaps between established rail-trails. Their first ride traversed Washington and northern Idaho, and their second covered Montana and Wyoming.

According to the artists, the project titled 4 ½ ft approaches the complex history of the railroad in the United States through a collective experience in performative mark-making.

Over the course of each ride, a piece of the route across the country is mapped the team of artists, aerial photographers, and other riders.

From that data, the trails that currently exist are connected into as complete a line as possible.

“Traversing the route by bicycle we can re-imagine a path embedded with the history of the development/exploitation of the West by slowing down, unraveling the industrialization of time and space,” a representative of the project said.

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Want to learn more?

Those who would like to learn more about the project can visit https://fourandahalffeet.art/.

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