Metal artist using ArtPrize entry to honor victims of Kalamazoo bike crash

Posted at 10:01 PM, Sep 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-13 22:02:18-04

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — June 7, 2016 is a day Kathy Kreager said she will never forget. Members of the Chain Gang cycling group were enjoying an evening ride in Cooper Township when a pickup truck slammed into them from behind on Westnedge Avenue. Five were killed instantly. Four others were taken to area hospitals. Kreager knew of them all.

“That incident just rocked our community,” said Kreager who lived in Richland for 20  years. “I get choked up even now talking about it.”

Since then Kreager wanted use her talents as a metal artist to honor the victims, she said. Last fall, she began creating a ghost bike.

“I started dreaming about it as weird as that sounds,” she said. “I just felt so compelled to do something. You feel so helpless in these situations.”

However, she was determined to honor them. Over six weeks, she created a 6-foot white ghost bike using two large old wagon metal wheels she had.

“I really wanted to focus on the five individuals whose lives were lost in that incident,” Kreager said. “So I decided to build a large basket in the front with five large, vibrant in color, metal flowers to represent each of the vibrant lives that were taken on that day.”

Kreager said she stored her metal artwork in a safe place for months but was unsure exactly how she wanted to share it. She simply knew she wanted a large audience to see it. So she applied for ArtPrize back in the spring and it was later selected as an entry.

“It’s exciting,” she said. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”

Kreager titled her entry Five, she said. It’ll be on display at the First Park Congregational Church in downtown Grand Rapids during ArtPrize. She hopes whoever sees it will be reminded of the victims and will ultimately slow down whenever they see cyclists on the road.

“I don’t think that any of us should feel fear when they’re sharing the road with a vehicle,” Kreager said. "I also hope that people think twice if they’re getting in a vehicle after they’ve been using any type of a substance."