Public Art Honors Prefontaine

The Marshfield High School manufacturing class is busy adding a playful and functional public art project for current and future generations to enjoy. In the summer of 2021, there were “running man” bike racks installed in downtown Coos Bay that were created by the manufacturing class the previous spring. 

The racks were created in honor of local Coos Bay legend Steve Roland Prefontaine, an Olympic runner who attended MHS. He was born in 1951, but by the age of 17, Prefontaine broke the national high school record for the 2-mile run. The steel “running man” bike racks look as if they are running, and they were placed at the Steve Prefontaine mural in downtown Coos Bay and adjacent to the Coos Bay Visitor Information Center. It took about five talented students to make eight bike racks. 

MHS Manufacturing teacher Glen Crook helped the students create the unique bike racks for the city, from a design created by Nashville artist Duncan McDaniel. Aside from the design and installation, the project was student-led. When they were first creating the racks, COVID-19 was in full swing and high school students were still attending classes online. It was a struggle to coordinate a project such as this during this time, but the students learned from their mistakes and persevered, eventually bringing the project to completion.

The first one took a long time,” said Crook. “It took almost a whole semester to finish the first one, once they figured out how to do it they were able to knock the other ones out pretty quick so for example Jack [Waddington] was able to knock his out within a month.” 

Once students got the hang of it, each bike rack took them a few weeks when there was more than one student working on one rack. The bike racks are made out of ten gauge steel plates and painted black with industrial paint.

It was a fun project to complete,” said Jack Waddington, one of the students who helped with the project. “I liked seeing that it actually went out into the community and is used by the public.”

The city provided the location and installation of the racks, but Jordan Cove, Inc. and Coos Rotary Foundation both donated money toward the project. In addition, the Ford Family Foundation applied a $5,000 grant toward completion of the bike racks. The seamless coordination between so many different entities resulted in a creative and eye-catching space in the community’s downtown corridor.

“We’re hoping that both locals and tourists like to use them,” said Holly Boardman, Executive Director of the Coos Bay Downtown Association. “We did put the bike racks in place for tourists that bike along highway 101 so that they have a nice spot to shop and eat and take a rest and there for locals.” 

Not only is the public art project useful and decorative, but it pays homage to Oregon’s Bay Area running icon Prefontaine. In the running community and beyond, Prefontaine left his historical mark in the small town of Coos Bay.

“We went with the running legs just because we wanted to have it linked to some history of the city of Coos Bay,” said Boardman. 

The MHS manufacturing class is currently busy working on other projects for the community. More of their work will be popping up in the community throughout the coming years.

 “The city of Coos Bay is working on a contract with us to make more of those legs,” Crook said. “And the Marine Life Center in Charleston, they want us to build them a bike rack that has a specific fish theme. It’s gonna be like a 6ft long bike rack that’s gonna look kind of like a fish.” 

  The bike racks can be found at the Coos Bay Visitor Center and the Preway near the Prefontaine murals, both located just off highway 101 in downtown Coos Bay.