While an arts organization hosting an auto and motorbike show may seem an off fit, it makes perfect sense to Mark Spencer, director of Gary's West Side Theatre Guild.
"The work itself, the pride put into them by each of the owners of those cars, is art and owners are artists in a sense," he said. "They're making art with their cars. You can liken it to going to a museum and seeing fine art up on a wall."
Kicking off the Guild's 2012–13 season on Saturday with their first "Steel City Classic Car & Bike Show," Spencer traced the origins of the event to an unlikely source — R&B singer Brian McKnight.
A stipulation in McKnight's contract for his West Side performance last fall called for a grand piano in mint condition be provided for the singer for use during his set. To meet the qualifications, Spencer called upon Greg Causey, a Gary–reared, Country Club Hills–based mechanical jack–of–all–trades, who volunteered his services in restoring a piano owned by the guild.
Conversations between Causey and Spencer lead to the auto show. For more than a decade, Causey spearheaded shows featuring vintage autos and motorcycles at Gary's Commons shopping center and the Gary Career Center for more than a decade.
Causey said he was excited at the prospect of teaming up with West Side Theatre Guild for their inaugural car and bike show.
"We've got a lot of jewels there in Gary that I don't think we take advantage of, and I don't think they get the proper exposure," he said. "You always hear about the negative stuff that goes on in that city, but there's a lot of positives, like the West Side Theatre Guild, and we have the opportunity to take advantage of these."
Approximately 300 vintage cars and dozens of vintage motorcycles are slated to be on display Saturday at the West Side parking lot.
"I anticipate this being one of the largest (car and bike) shows that (Gary's) had in a long time," Causey said. "One of the things we're trying to do is have a big event where everybody can have a great time and just relax and say 'life is good.'"
"It's something unique for us, to get another demographic in to come in and learn about what we do," Spencer said of the show. ""We're trying to shake it up and keep thing interesting for the region."