Student completes moving art project

In the finale of a two-month project that took her from the gallery to the streets and then to the sea, a Cal State Long Beach graduate student on Monday pedaled a swan boat from San Pedro to Long Beach, the last of eight human-powered means she employed to get to class.

Published November 20, 2007 by LA Times 
By Rebecca Trounson

In the finale of a two-month project that took her from the gallery to the streets and then to the sea, a Cal State Long Beach graduate student on Monday pedaled a swan boat from San Pedro to Long Beach, the last of eight human-powered means she employed to get to class.

Sierra Brown, 28, launched the performance art project Oct. 1 with a 12-mile swim through Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors, crossing four ship channels in the process. Each succeeding Monday, she used a different mode of transportation for the journey, including Rollerblades, a longboard, a sailboat and a Razor scooter.

On Monday, wearing a Victorian dress and accompanied by her similarly-clad mother, Brown completed her eight self-assigned tasks. She landed her tiny, bird-shaped boat at the Marina Pacifica docks after 6 hours and 19 minutes of pedaling, then walked the final mile or so to the Long Beach campus.

"It feels really, really good to be done," Brown said in a phone interview after parking her quirky craft, which she said drew surprised expressions and lots of smiles from people in the busy port. "I was starting to get pretty tired."

The young woman, who is completing a master of fine arts degree, said the idea for the project grew out of her frustration at not being able to bike easily between her San Pedro home and the Cal State Long Beach campus, where she takes a Monday evening class. Bicycle and pedestrian traffic is banned on the most direct route, the Vincent Thomas Bridge.

"I was just pretty upset with an infrastructure that basically allows no alternative other than a car, especially when we're in an oil crisis right now," said Brown, who lived for a time in Australia, a country that she said has many bike paths and better public transportation.

Brown said her art had been moving gradually from the gallery toward a more activist, performance-based model. So with the support of her advisor, assistant professor of art Kyle Riedel, she came up with the idea of a project that combined aspects of art, athleticism and environmental concern.

"She was never completely satisfied with gallery space as an effective means to communicate," Riedel said. "She has political, sort of activist, concerns, and the gallery may have been a little bit confining. . . . I admire her for thinking outside the traditional boundaries, even those set by the school."

rebecca.trounson@latimes.com