The two aquatic plants, assayed in brown steel and each 10 feet high, stand along East Second Street as if perched aside Lady Bird Lake.
Seven blocks away, a second sculpture on Congress Avenue evokes a set of silvery pipe cleaners linked to form a jungle gym.
Both of these, though most passers-by might not know it, are bike racks, the fruit of a five-year collaboration between the Downtown Austin Alliance and the city of Austin. Officials on Thursday and Friday, national Bike to Work Day, will dedicate the downtown public art pieces.
The publicity, officials and one of the artists said, should alert the intended users — cyclists — that it is OK to hook up their bikes to the sculptures.
“I think (the) ceremony and Bike to Work Day will increase awareness that that’s what they are,” said Ann Armstrong, an Austin architect, artist and steel fabricator who won a competition to produce “Stem Rack,” the plants on East Second.
Armstrong said her work, which has been in place since December, was inspired by the taro root plant, sometimes called elephant ears. “But it is not literally that plant,” she said. “It is just a point of departure.”
Armstrong, while she said she owns a bike and rides it some, mostly travels on four wheels.
“I’m a steel fabricator, so I need a truck to ride around in,” she said.
The stainless steel sculpture in the plaza of 816 Congress Ave., was installed this month and is called “Gear Grove.” Its artist, Ben Harman, incorporated recycled bike gears into the design.
The commission for the two sculptures — $10,000 each — was provided by the Downtown Austin Alliance, Thomas Properties Group and the owners of 816 Congress, the city said in a news release. A third artist team was commissioned to produce another bike rack, the city said, but later withdrew.
The city, which spent about $1,000 on plaques embedded in the sidewalk alongside the sculptures that identify them as bike racks, doesn’t plan additional sculptures for its bike rack inventory, said Lani Golstab, an art marketing specialist with the city’s Arts in Public Places program.