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Opening Tonight: Ghost Bikes of L.A. Art Exhibit

An image from the studio installation. Image from Nona Varnado

Ghost Bikes L.A., a local art show honoring a decade of art, advocacy and community opens tonight 7 pm at Red #5 Yellow #7 in the Hel-Mel Bike District in East Hollywood.

"Through visually stunning art installations we aim to inspire viewers," explains Nona Varnado, the curator of the exhibit. "We explore in depth the question of what ghost bikes are; their dual purpose of commemorating fallen cyclists while creating awareness of the need to demand change in our communities."

Ghost Bikes are memorials honoring cyclists who are fatally - or sometimes critically - injured due to unnecessary collisions on streets not designed for shared traffic. They are a unique and positive response to a terrible event. By using art, communities around the globe have begun making individual memorials a powerful public awareness tool. Ghost Bikes are not put together by family or friends, but by local bike advocates to pay respect while making it publicly known that a death has occurred and making it obvious that a street or intersection is dangerous.

One artist featured in the exhibit is Sahra Sulaiman, one of the editors here at Streetsblog Los Angeles. Her featured work is a photo of cyclist Jose Vasquez lighting a candle for friend Luis "Andy" Garcia. Garcia was killed by a drunk driver as he, Vasquez, and several other cyclists rode home over the L.A. River on Cesar Chavez this past September.

"What is so important about ghost bikes is that these hit-and-runs leave families and friends utterly devastated. Not only are their loved ones mowed down, but most are denied any sort of closure because the perpetrators are rarely caught and/or punished appropriately," Sulaiman writes.

"On one hand, the pain is compounded by the idea that someone would leave a wounded brother, sister, mother, or father in the street to die -- the cruelty of it shakes your faith in humanity to the core. On the other, the incidents are so senseless...often the product of carelessness or selfishness. They didn't have to happen or play out the way they did. I can't imagine how hard it is to get past something like that. I know for the family of Benjamin Torres, not having any answers and not feeling like they can trust the police to tell them what happened or help them find the perpetrator makes the healing process hard."

The show runs through November 16. For show times and event information, visit the Red #5 Yellow#7 website. Or visit Facebook for event details for tonight's opening, a session with the families of bicyclists killed in car crashes, and the show closing.

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