It never gets easier. You just go slower.

It never gets easier. You just go slower.

by Charles Youel December 17, 2015

Note: This post originally appeared in February 2015 on our old website. We're re-posting it here because it provides some background on the changes we've made and will continue to making to ARTCRANK in 2015 in beyond. And because it's a good story. Enjoy!

Greetings, true believers! Given that it's mid-February, this is probably a good time to tell you what we've got in store for 2015. Big changes afoot, that's for sure, and I'll get to those at the end of this post. But first, and by way of explanation, let me tell you a story.

One of my favorite stories about ARTCRANK takes place in London, in 2010 — the first time we’d done a show outside of the United States.

I grew up in St. Louis, a city that for all of its fine qualities lacks the pop culture cache and mystique of cities like New York, Los Angeles, and London. Hell, even Chicago. As a kid, I stayed up late with my headphones on, listening to first classic rock then new wave radio and vinyl, developing a mental image of London as this essentially magical place that exuded cool from every street corner.

I realize that this might seem charmingly (or pathetically) naïve. But in my defense, we’re talking about a pre-Internet world, and a house that hadn’t plugged into the life-changing, mind-blowing, world-shrinking power of MTV. The vast majority of what I knew about London and much of the world outside of the U.S. was composed of what I’d learned in history class, and what I heard in my headphones.

I finally visited London for the first time in 2005 — two years before the first ARTCRANK show in Minneapolis. So when we arrived five years later to put on a bike poster show, I had a more informed and realistic notion of what the city was all about. But that sense of magic never completely dissipated, and the idea of bringing something I’d created to a place with such a storied history and prominent role in my personal mythology still sparked my imagination.

The show was held in a Shoreditch café and bike shop called Look Mum No Hands, and from the moment we walked in for the first time, it felt like the right place. Mostly because it was more or less London’s answer to One On One, the Minneapolis café and bike shop that hosted the first three editions of ARTCRANK. We arrived a couple days before the opening, but as always we had more to do than time to do it, and time seemed to move in fast-forward.

Because almost all of our shows are basically one-night pop-up shops, the day of the event is always a cyclone of manic activity. Especially in venues we’ve never operated in before. Holes have to be drilled in walls, anchors sunk, lines rigged, posters arranged and re-arranged and then re-re-arranged. Doing all of this in a busy café that is very much open for business all the while does not increase the efficiency of any of these operations.

Ergo, for me, every show basically comes down to one extended decapitated chicken impression. I have roughly a microsecond of serenity right before the doors open, because at that point there’s nothing else I can do improve or screw up the experience that’s about to take place. Otherwise, I’m going at warp speed in all directions, trying to anticipate problems before they happen, addressing whatever unexpected nonsense pops up, and making sure that everyone else in the room is having a good time.

And before I know it, it’s time for last call, politely herding stragglers towards the door, taking down all of the posters, packing up tools and supplies, and finally grabbing a cab to wherever we’re staying so that I can fall into something between sleep and an extended vegetative state.

Unsurprisingly, I tend to suck at living in the moment.

At any given time, I’m inhabiting several moments past, present and future, occasionally in multiple cities, states, countries and/or astral planes. I imagine it feels a little like learning to surf: You’re so preoccupied with trying to stay on your board that you don’t appreciate the sheer amazingness of riding a wave.

I was at the crest of the London show wave, my head on a swivel and my synapses firing like a box of bottle rockets, when my wife grabbed my hand and pulled me through the crowd toward the front door. Snaking through the line of people waiting with various degrees of patience to get in, she led me across the street, put her hands on my shoulders and squared me up to look at the view you see in this photo:

“I want you to take a minute and enjoy what you did.”

So I did.

I pushed all of the insistent voices into the background long enough to show that kid in the darkened room traveling across the ocean by the light of the radio and the music in his head what we’d managed to pull off in the magical city of London.

And I think he thought it was pretty cool.

There’s a quote attributed to the American cyclist and three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond: “It never gets easier, you just go faster.”

He was talking about bike racing, but it neatly sums up my approach to ARTCRANK since that first show in Minneapolis: Go faster. Go further. Do more. The fact that we weren’t competing with anyone or anything beyond ourselves was all but irrelevant. Success was measured in increases.

We started going to cities beyond Minneapolis in 2009. In 2010, our show in London was one of nine. In 2012, that number was up to 12. In 2013, it reached 15, including our first show in Paris and a retrospective show at the AIGA National Conference. Last year, we did 14 shows. All told, we’ve staged more than 50 shows in three countries.

Spoiler alert: It never got easier.

It’s hard to say exactly when. But at some point, I stopped taking a minute to enjoy what I did. And no amount of going faster, going further, or doing more was going to make me.

So this year, we’re going to try something different: Going slower. Doing less. And putting more of our time and energy into a couple projects that we’ve been waiting for years to have time for.

Project one is the first in what we hope will be a series of books documenting the 2,000+ posters we’ve had the pleasure and privilege of showing. Most of which have never been seen beyond the shows in which they first appeared.

Project two is a new website that, among other things, will feature a store with the kind of limited edition, handmade, bike-inspired posters that are the trademark of ARTCRANK shows. The artists will come from across the country, and eventually around the world — not just the cities on our tour roster.

We’ll still do events, but we’ll do a lot fewer of them. Right now, the only confirmed locations for 2015 are Minneapolis and London, along with our second collaborative show with Vélib’ in Paris. (Update: We also have a show in Breckenridge during the USA Pro Challenge in August.)

Having invested the past eight years of my life into building ARTCRANK on a steady diet of live shows slathered in More! sauce, I’m here to tell you that this is exciting and terrifying in equal measure. Which is exactly what lets me know it’s the right thing to do.

The year ahead will be very different from the past eight. But it won’t be any easier.

It never gets easier.

You just go slower.

And take a few minutes here and there to enjoy the ride.

Charles Youel


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