SCUL pilots assemble on Saturnights to fly and forget about their troubles, be creative, and enjoy the late night streets. But SCUL is made up of pilots who are passionate about sharing their time and energy with others, and strive to be the change they want to see in the world. We care deeply about human rights and equality for all.
SCUL is 100% volunteer run, and has been 100% volunteer run for a quarter-century. It takes a tremendous amount of organizing, planning, information gathering and sharing, construction, repair, maintenance, preparation, and documentation simply to run missions. And yet, SCUL pilots often go above and beyond the normal levels of commitment as SCUL starpilots to bring more to our larger community — both locally and globally. Read on for an incomplete archive of SCUL activities centered around outreach and community building.
Honk is an annual festival and parade of street activist bands from around the world, staring in Somerville and marching to Harvard Square in Cambridge. SCUL has participated in the Honk Parade in 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2022. We collect ingredients, cook, and clean for the Friday dinner as well, and many pilots have offered their homes up for musicians during the festival.
Flying massive ships at parade pace is challenging, especially in the middle of large unpredictable crowds of grown-ups as well as children. Over the years SCUL has developed, practiced, and perfected the parade formation flight tactic, which is safety-critical and very demanding to pilots of all skill levels.
From the Honk! about webpage:
These bands don’t just play for the people; they play among the people and invite them to join the fun. They are active, activist, and deeply engaged in their communities, at times alongside unions and grassroots groups in outright political protest, or in some form of community-building activity, routinely performing and conducting workshops for educational and social service organizations of all kinds. At full power, these bands create an irresistible spectacle of creative movement and sonic self-expression directed at making the world a better place. This is the movement we call HONK!
Skunk was honored to volunteer his time and talent to design and illustrate the t-shirt for the tenth anniversary for Honk!
Bikes Not Bombs uses the bicycle as a vehicle for social change to achieve economic mobility for Black and other marginalized people in Boston and the Global South. Each year they collect roughly 5,000 used bicycles and lots of used parts from supporters around Greater Boston and New England. They ship most of these bikes overseas to economic development projects through International Partners in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Some of the bikes are repurposed in youth programs where teens learn bicycle safety and mechanics skills in the process of earning bikes to keep for themselves.
Thanks to Iron Cog Threespeed, SCUL has been able to donate and deliver literal tons of bicycles: he also runs a local drop-off point and volunteers on various activities.
Many pilots have volunteered at Bikes Not Bombs: Gluteus Maximus volunteered on the board of directors for some time. When Skunk was the on the PBS Show Design Squad, he convinced the producers to get their bicycles through Bikes Not Bombs, which allowed BNB to get their message out on a national level.
SCUL pilots eXceSs, Dreadflint, Pastry Queen, and Sprocket have built impressive entries for the Lowell Kinetic Sculpture Race in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019. Each Year SCUL flew to Lowell, slept in tents and hammocks, participated as support and spectacle, then rode home.
A few of these ships have attended several Lowell Holiday Parades. One ship, dubbed Lobster Roll, competed in the Kinetic Grand Championship in Eureka, California in 2018.
ArtBeat is an annual two-day family-friendly fest that essentially takes over Davis Square: it’s a rollicking good time with music, craft and food vendors, dance performances, public art and much more. ArtBeat is put on by the Somerville Arts Council, and is free to the public.
SCUL first participated in Art Beat when we were still located in Watertown in 2000, if only as part of the parade. Later we held SCULimpics at ArtBeat in 2006 and 2004. In 2007, Skunk held a dance party in the traffic triangle on Friday night on his way home from work, using nothing but Cloudbuster and a roll of caution tape. He ran his warp core completely dry at the end of the very last song. That weekend he brought all his Titan class robots to the square and greeted the populous.
Boston Bike Party's mission is to foster an inclusive community of people to enjoy the pure fun of bicycling. Like SCUL, it is 100% volunteer run. Many SCUL pilots fly their ships with Boston Bike Party - adding SCUL's special brand of flair to the event. We've noticed that Boston Bike Party encourages the high-five, a long-time staple in SCUL-ture - it connects the public to the people on bikes and helps everyone to feel welcome.
SCUL and Boston Bike Party are organizations that try hard to co-exist with all forms of transportation in a friendly and outgoing way.
Most people who show at Somerville Open Studios are in it to sell their work: Skunk has participated in it for over a decade, giving demos for his welding class while sharing his sculpture endeavors. While SCUL isn't selling anything, we have participated in demo events, affectionately known as a 'Chopper Petting Zoo'. This is a chance for civilians to check out some of our ships up close, and even fly some of them if they like. We see it as an opportunity to connect with the community, to invite new members to apply, to signal boost the things you can do at the Artisans Asylum, and to help people smile.
SCULimpics is the SCUL version of the Olympics, but with a twist - anyone taking it seriously will be disqualified. What originally started in 1999 as an event without an audience, it morphed into a public event in Davis Square three years running, moved on to Figment Boston 2009, then in 2010 during a tornado warning in Cambridge, and in 2011 in Boston Proper. We also went in 2013.
Back in 2006 ArtsUnion co-founder Susan Berstler proposed the idea of holding a dance party under McGrath. (Susan was and still is obsessed with hidden dark spaces that she explored in Berlin.) So Susan, lighting guru Todd Sargent, and the Arts Council went through the crazy permitting and production process and produced Project MUM. It was a huge hit and transformed a space folks typically want to forget into an event folks will never forget.
After a short hiatus, SCUL rebooted the event by collaborating with local artists and performers in 2012 edition of this well-loved outdoor dance party: Meet Under McGrath. SCUL Iron Cog YT has been organizing the event ever since. Read our mission reports from 2013 and 2014.
SCUL's been having a Halloween ride ever since Skunk decided that throwing a Halloween party caused too much property damage. Each season we invite anyone who's got themselves or their bikes in costume, and the rides get big and unwieldy as a result: but since we've been practicing all season for mayhem, we usually pull off a successful mission without too many 'costumicals', a.k.a. someone getting their costume caught in their drivetrain.
The SCUL Starchaser Division intercepted a distress call from the United Way, and delivered 287 Earth Pounds of food. The Hunger Heroes had established a temporary outpost inside Buttonwood Park Constellation and they needed our help filling their sustenance pods. Prior to launch, we were provided a manifest, a BINGO card, and a map provided by Stellar Cartography identifying seven possible fulfillment stations. To complete our mission, the Starchasers had to equip our ships with expanded cargo holds and fly to each of these seven locations, complete seven challenges, and help the Hunger Heroes feed the galaxy!
SCUL Starchaser Division raises awareness about racial inequality.
Starpilots from all over the galaxy gathered on the Buttonwood launchpad, many for the first time, to share their stories and explore New Bedford’s many murals and monuments dedicated to Black history.
Visit the mission report for details and images.
SCUL represented itself as SCUL and as the Artisans Asylum at the Created By Festival at the Children's Museum in October 2018 and October 2019. Each event lasted two full days. Children of all ages got to see SCUL up close, and watch some nimble tallbike riding, as well as learn about SCUL and their role in the A2 ecosystem.
SCUL traversed the great galactic void to travel to Lithuania - twice - to help the Racoons transform bikes abandoned at Burning Man into rolling works of art for children and grown-up children to enjoy in parades and elsewhere. SCUL pilots traveled overseas on their own dime to help SCUL and the Artisans Asylum expand their global presence and to foster smiles in different time zones.
SCUL was invited to participate an a show at the PEM: it was quite a haul for our massive ships, but we couldn't resist to help promote the joy of cycling. We discovered a strong mutant bike culture scene in Salem - so we made many friends and stayed out as late as we could before hauling our tired bodies back to Somerville. For a full debriefing, read the full mission report.
Let’s Talk about Bikes was a free to the public exhibit to raise awareness about the role of bicycles in cities today. BSA is asked Bostonians to share their views about bikes in the city on the exhibition website.
SCUL managed to cram their ships through the commuter rail's teeny airlocks, and got a ride to the Providence System for Maker Faire. We didn't bother to have a booth as we're a nomadic lot, we participated in the event by showing the finer details of our ships as well as the complex electronics they carry, and conversed with many wrinkly brains. read the full mission report for more information.
Take the most brilliant and creative minds on the planet, get them together, and have them throw a week long party in Hell. That's what 2006 Burning Man was like in a nutshell. The Burning Man festival takes place on the other side of the US. SCUL managed to fix over 200 bicycles right on the Esplanade: but perhaps more importantly, we also brought a successful build-your-own chopper assembly line and transmogrified sixty playa bikes into rolling smile makers.
“At our Festival we ‘wake up’ the Earth from its winter sleep and reawaken our diverse and too often divided communities to the knowledge, basic to every culture, that only human unity and harmony can guarantee survival.” - Leroy Stoddard, Director, 1987
When Gui Cavalcanti founded the Artisans Asylum in 2010, he asked SCUL to align our forces: SCUL offered a fully-stocked bike shop for Asylum members to utilize, with knowledgeable people to help, and in turn SCUL got an amazing clubhouse which we refer to as 'The Fort'. It was significant upgrade for SCUL, since Skunk had been running everything out of whatever portion of the basement in the building he was renting for fourteen seasons. SCUL built an eleven foot gate for the Asylum for the building to pass inspection at the Asylum's Joy Street Location. SCUL pilots also played a large part in spooling up our current Tyler Street location, including studio space construction, mounting and wiring projectors, and painting.
When pilots are working at the Fort, they are often approached by asylum members that need help with something on their bike: we are always willing to show them a quick tutorial on how to do it and be there for any follow-up questions. We always do our best to help out those in need, and it's rare - if ever - that we tell them we are too busy to help.
SCUL and the Artisans Asylum have a strong alliance - we are shop leads, tour givers, teachers, event runners, talk givers, floor sweepers and do gooders. Some who served on the Asylum board of directors were also active SCUL pilots. We are proud to say that two of the executive directors in Asylum's history were active SCUL members - Runt in 2014 and Eyyou in 2017.
When SCUL is out on missions, we often get asked who we are and what we are about. We have stickers to give out, and on the back we have text that reads "scul.org - based at artisansasylum.com". While not everyone in SCUL is a maker, many pilots who join SCUL see the inner workings of the Asylum and wind up becoming members.
When there's not a pandemic limiting occupancy, SCUL hosts Basenite every Tuesday night from 8 to midnight - a time for folks inside and outside the gang to come and work on their personal projects. We're happy to offer help whenever someone is stuck on something they are working on; whether it's bike mechanics, modification, electronic enhancements, or anything else.
SCUL pilot DrClaw has been organizing @party: a demoparty and computer arts festival, which has been running at the Asylum since 2016. Out side of that, DC does sound for most speaker series and other Asylum events that require A/V support.
To learn more about SCUL as seen by others, please visit our our press archive.