By Kathy L. Collins

The SouthShore Arts Council is excited to announce the formation of a great program called ‘Bend Grind and Ride: Earn a Bike’. The program is designed for students ages 12 to 16 who reside in the South Hillsborough County area and do not have the financial means to obtain a bike.

The program is offered after school and allows students to experience hands-on learning aimed at custom bike building. Selected students will attend an eight-week course designed to teach the basics of customizing and building “lowrider” art bikes. They will design, fabricate, order parts, and build a bike which they will keep at the end of the course. The class will meet twice a week for two and a half hours. The SouthShore Arts Council plans to begin offering the course in October.

Classes are limited to six students. The SouthShore Arts Council hopes to continue offering classes throughout the year. The SouthShore Arts Council is currently accepting nominations for the students to attend. Anyone can nominate a student. To nominate a student, please contact Mike Parker at 846-2000 or

Bend Grind and Ride: Earn a Bike will take place at Ruskin artist, Mike Parker’s personal studio. Parker is donating the space along with his extensive tool collection to help get the project off the ground. During the course, students will learn how to disassemble, cut, grind, weld and reassemble to create a vehicle of their own design.

Parker said, “When I first got into creating things, I experimented with many materials and methods. I eventually pursued painting as a fine art, but it was the designing and hand building of a vehicle of my own creation that gave me a sense of pride and accomplishment.” Parker added, “Creating art in the community is an excellent model to teach job skills, camaraderie, self-esteem, entrepreneurship and increase social capital.”

When the bikes are finished, the project will culminate with a parade in downtown Ruskin. On the day of the event, the students who participated in the eight-week course will conduct a workshop with the community. Parker said, “Not only will the students be able to learn the skills needed to do this, but after they can pass it on to others.”

The project is funded by grants from the Black Rock Foundation, the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, the South Shore Chamber of Commerce and individual donors.

Previous articleRyuu Japanese Steak House Offers Unique Dining Experience At Brandon Mall
Next articleTampa YMCA Welcomes New CEO