Director of Mankato’s 410 Project bikes 3,200 miles

After five years, Dana Sikkala finally completes her journey around Minn.

Rachel Jaeger
Staff Writer

Dana Sikkala has bike trekked around Minnesota, and visited artists living in Grand Marais, Knife River, Duluth, Sturgeon Lake, St. Paul, Minneapolis, Red Wing, and St. Peter. After five years and traveling 3,200 miles in the summer with a trailer and film crew, she has decided that it’s time to call it quits.  

With her Surly bike and riding partner Kyle Zeiszler, they demonstrated and advocated for what it means to live off your bike in Minnesota. At the same time, she followed through Project Bike’s mission to showcase that artists are truly part of their chemistry as individuals, as communities and as a state. 

When Sikkala took over the 410 Project in 2012, she asked herself what she could do to advocate for artists, not just in Mankato but also throughout the state. 

“After thinking for over a year or so, I came up with putting together my two passions, art making and biking and created Project Bike,” Sikkala stated. “Then in 2015 I set out on my first Project Bike.”

Since then, the 410 Project has been glued together with Project Bike. Project Bike started out of the 410 Project, but expanded into its own unique entity. 

“But everyone always talks about Project Bike and the 410 together,” Sikkala clarified. “It’s always stayed true to its roots.” 

On Oct. 11, the 410 Project hosted an opening reception for Project Bike, which showcased the artwork Sikkala collected on her tour. Following the reception, the 410 Project premiered a mini version of the documentary that Alex Kohnstamm and Alec Schwandt created during her tour. The filmmakers also recorded the reception to add to their final footage of the film, which will release in 2020.

“When Dana met us for the first time, she told us that the project would be ending,” Kohnstamm said. “It was really surprising that we were brought on at the end of the project, but we were also very flattered and honored that she trusted us with her last ride.”

Their routine started when Sikkala and Zeiszler started biking and ended after the bikers reached their destination for the night. As far as the style of the documentary, Schwandt framed his stylistic decisions in response to previous years. He observed how he those scenes from the previous were shot and how they were structured and put together. 

“I wanted this year to have a completely different feel and a renewed focus on the ‘why’ of the artists, and not so much the ‘what’,” Schwandt said. “This meant having sit down interviews be the primary interview technique we used, and having them look directly into camera, rather than having their eyeline be off camera to the interviewer. I thought it would give more of a connection to the audience. I was really interested in having each of the artists feel distinct, and really see what makes each of them unique.” 

“Dana and Kyle were very good about sharing their schedule and the biking route that they would be going on,” Kohnstamm commented. “It made it very easy for us to track their movement and go through production the best we could.”

“Our nights were late, usually with Alex monitoring the transfer of footage in our hotel rooms – which was one of the biggest logistical challenges,” Schwandt added. “Alex and I have been shooting together since around 2013, so we have a pretty good way of working together. It’s great to have two heads to focus on the different aspects of production, Alex on the logistics and day to day allows me to focus on capturing the moments with Dana, Kyle and our artists.”

Kohnstamm, as a producer handled all the logistics, hiring, transport, lodging, and supervising post to ensure that Project Bike orchestrates together properly, scheduled, and came in on budget.

“What intrigued me most was that it was the final year,” Schwandt said, “and that sense of closure I thought would be a lot more emotional, and a lot more poignant and interesting. It gave a good finality to the film.”

“I’m very honored to have the privilege of producing the last Project Bike documentary,” Kohnstamm added. “I’m excited for it to be finished in 2020 and sent to film festivals and seeing what the national response to this documentary is.”

If interested in viewing the previous journeys, you can check out the following sites:

Project Bike 2016 – https://vimeo.com/186444195

Project Bike 2017 – https://vimeo.com/236395666 Project Bike 2018 – https://youtu.be/BnQlTeRnTzA

Header photo courtesy of Dana Sikkala.

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