The Green Mini Demo Derby thrills and delights while incorporating both environmental irresponsibility and responsibility.
The Green Mini Demo Derby thrills and delights while incorporating both environmental irresponsibility and responsibility.
Colin Matthes.
Colin Matthes.

Sunshine smash-ups

Shouting, cheering, and smashing. And it’s art!

This morning, "The Arts Page" crew and I visited Colin Matthes, creator of The Green Mini Demo Derby, a solar-powered visual art experience at Inova Gallery.

Individually designed and hand-painted wooden remote-control cars zip, zoom and tumble across a striped rectangular plywood track which even includes a trap door that is activated if a car trips a specially placed wire.

Every car has a sponsor from a community business. And each sponsor will tell you that to be designated the driver of the car and wear the accompanying hand-painted jumpsuit is a coveted position.

The Green part of the Mini Demo Derby comes from a custom-built mobile solar electric power generator. The kind of solar panel that you usually only see on rooftops is right there on wheels in the gallery, doing its duty silently charging up the cars.

On Thursday, October 10, you can watch as drivers representing Midwest Voltaics, Classic Slice Pizza, Ace Hardware, Sky High, Ape Girl, Helios/Beans and Barley, and Finks/BelAir Cantina face off in the second of three heats in this series. Drivers feel the power and can get pretty intense during competition. A Mad Dog Award is presented to the driver that puts on the best show, including hardest hits, rolling over other cars and any other dominating maneuvers. Colectivo Coffee is quite proud to have won this plaque in Heat 1.

The final championship round that will include the trophy presentation and a grudge match with all of the losers will be held November 14.

The heats bring out both the competitor and the kid in everyone involved, whether you’re revving the remote control engine or drawn into the damaging collisions as a spectator. That energy from the people is partially what inspires Matthes, one of seven Milwaukee-area artists who were awarded fellowships in 2012 through the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Mary L. Nohl Fund.

He has rigged electricity at county fairs, the sites of carnivals and entertainment that many remember fondly from childhood, including himself. Matthes likes that The Green Mini Demo Derby thrills and delights while incorporating both environmental irresponsibility and responsibility - destroying creations yet powering them with a reusable, environmentally friendly fuel.

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