How Mr. B's Piano Bike Dream was Built into Reality

Ann Arbor, MI - Nationally known bicycle frame builder Mark Nobilette is the man responsible for building the custom piano-bike that is currently traveling on Mr. B's Joybox Express Mississippi River Road Ride, an epic 2,000 mile journey from Lake Itasca, MN to New Orleans, LA.  As a custom frame builder he has built it all from professional racing bikes to pedicabs.  But jazz and blues musician and amateur athlete Mark Braun put him up to a challenge he had never been given before - to build a bike that could pull a full-upright piano.

Mark "Mr. B" Braun, an internationally recognized jazz and blues pianist, dreamt up a whimsical concept of a piano-on-wheels which results from a personal lifetime passion for arts and athletics.  "I am convinced that I am a better musician because I have always been active in sports.  A lot of people find art and athletics to be mutually exclusive, but I see clearly how both played a pivotal role as I learned valuable life lessons about endurance, ambition, passion, failure and achievement.  I started the Mr. B's Joybox Express as a vehicle to spread the joy of music and movement and help communities raise support for youth arts and athletics programs." said Braun.  When he decided to make this dream into a reality he knew just who he needed for the job; his local custom bicycle frame builder Mark Nobilette.

Nobilette was a part of the reemergence of bicycle frame building in the United States in the 1970s.  He studied with and learned his craft from the esteemed frame builder Albert Eisentraut who was referred to as the dean of modern USA (post Korean War) custom frame builders.  In the early 1990s Nobilette was building frames at Cycle Cellar in Ann Arbor, MI.  It was here that he first met Mr. B. "[H]e brought up this subject of a piano on a bike.  I kind of thought he was nuts," Nobilette said.

Eventually, Nobilette moved to Longmont, CO to start his own frame building business: Nobilette Cycle.  Several years later he and Mr. B reconnected and the idea of the piano bike resurfaced.  By this point, Nobilette had done some work for Main Street Pedicabs in Denver, CO building the rickshaw-like structures used as taxis.  He realized that an extended version of a pedicab could be a great design for Mr. B's piano bike.  This time Nobilette's response to Mr. B was different, "Yeah, let's do it!  No reason we can't."

So began the creation of Mr. B's Joybox Express, a custom-made tricycle capable of hauling a 387 lb. piano.  Nobilette's major concern in the construction was how to make it safely carry 500-600 lbs. (the weight of the piano plus the platform).  Also, the platform needed to be stable so the piano would not be bounced out of tune while traveling.  To solve these two obstacles, Nobilette equipped the bike with shock absorbers as well as places in the back for two more riders to attach their bike frames (minus the front wheel) to assist in pushing.  After lots of thought and energy the construction was a success.  In fact, Nobilette's original model of Mr. B's Joybox Express is traveling down the Blues Highway right now!

The collaboration of the talents of musician Mr. B and bicycle frame builder Mark Nobilette made the dream of a piano bike come to life.  Mr. B's Joybox Express is currently traveling along the Blues Highway to parade, educate and share the sounds of blues, jazz and boogie-woogie tunes performed by the Mr. B's Joybox Express Band.

Below are the locations and tentative dates for the remainder of the tour:

Galena, IL, 9/27/14

Muscatine, IA, 09/28-29/14

Burlington, IA, 10/7/14

St. Louis, MO, 10/15/14

Hickman, KY, 10/22/14

Osceola, AR, 10/25/14

Memphis, TN, 10/30/14

Clarksdale, MS, 11/2/14

Yazoo City, MS, 11/5/14

Baton Rouge, LA, 11/12/14

New Orleans, LA, 11/15/14


Communities interested in hosting Mr. B's Joybox Express should contact Artrain at 734.747.8300 or JoyboxExpress@ArtrainUSA.orgArtrain, Inc. is producing Mr. B's Joybox Express Mississippi River Road Ride.  For more than 40 years Artrain, headquartered in Ann Arbor, MI, has delivered world class arts and cultural exhibitions and education programs to under-resourced communities throughout the United States.  Winner of the National Medal for Museum Service, Artrain's mission is to deliver discovery and - through the galvanizing power of arts and culture - transform lives, organizations and communities.  Originally Artrain was a museum-on-a-train that used America's rail system to deliver art exhibitions.  Today Artrain produces and delivers cultural outreach programs of all types - art, cultural, history, science, environment, etc. - to people in villages, towns and cities through a variety of methods including mobile touring exhibitions and cultural education and engagement programs.  Artrain's current projects include : Mr. B's Joybox Express; CriticCar Detroit, Infinite Mirror: Images of American Identity; and Paths to Peace: A War of 1812 Arts Legacy Project.

Artrain and Mr. B's Joybox Express are supported by hundreds of individuals, businesses and, in part, by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and Wells Fargo Foundation.

For more information contact Artrain at 734.747.8300,, or



The Muscatine Art Center holds tens of thousands of objects in its collection. Like many museums, only a small percentage - as little as one percent - of the collection is on view at any given time.

On Thursday, September 11, 2013, the Muscatine Art Center will offer behind-the-scenes collection storage tours for those interested in seeing the storage area and learning how the staff documents, cares for and manages the collection. The tour is from 5:30 to 6:45 P.M.  Space is limited to 12 people  and registration is taken on first come, first served basis.

Don't miss this opportunity to see stored treasures from the Art Center's permanent collection. Join a tour group for a truly unique experience as you hear about how the museum operates from the inside out and have your individual questions answered by staff.


  • Rarely seen "cool stuff" from the Art Center - art objects and artifacts that tell fascinating stories about Muscatine and/or the region.
  • Main collection storage areas and hidden storage areas in the Musser Museum.
  • Textile and print storage.
  • The original Musser Carriage House and Musser Museum basement.
  • Explanation of how museums keep track of collections.


  • Tours are limited to a maximum of 15 people. Please indicate the tour time you would like to be a part of.
  • Tours are for adults and children over 12 years of age (12-16 year olds need to be accompanied by an adult).
  • Tour duration is approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  • As a courtesy to other participants, please be on time.
  • Physical accessibility is somewhat limited with the full behind-the-scenes tour including narrow stairs. Please notify us at the time of booking of any special requirements.
  • For security reasons, you may not take mobile phones, cameras, videos, other electrical equipment, bags, food or drinks on the tour. All personal items must be checked before the tour departs.

Call NOW to reserve a place in the Muscatine Art Center's Behind-the-Scenes experience!


What: Muscatine Art Center's Behind-the-Scenes Collections Storage Tour

Who: Hosted by MAC staff

When: Thursday, May 9, 2013

Times: 5:30-6:45 PM

Where: The Muscatine Art Center

Admission to this tour is FREE.

Please contact Melanie Alexander, Director, with any questions or concerns at

563-263-8282 or by email  at

The Muscatine Art Center is located at 1314 Mulberry Avenue in Muscatine, Iowa. Hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Thursday evenings until 7:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. Admission is free. Donations are appreciated. Go to for more information about programs and events and to download a class brochure.

The Muscatine Art Center is pleased to announce the opening "Featured Artworks by John Weyl." Weyl's work will be on display in the Musser Museum Gallery, 1314 Mulberry Ave., Muscatine, from Thursday, Sept. 4 through Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014. A reception and artist's talk will be held Sunday, Oct. 5 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. in the Musser Mansion. Admission is free.

Burlington, Iowa artist John Weyl's work includes prints, painting,  and  jewelry, however he is particularly known for his "Mono-Prints".  While technically a print, each mono-print is an individual, no two are alike. His abstract work is expressed with freeform shapes and rendered with an energetic color palette.  His geometric work interlaces strong forms with quiet color.

Born and raised in Burlington, Iowa, Weyl attended Burlington Schools through junior college. He continued his education at the University of Northern Iowa, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in art education.  After one year of teaching art and meeting his future wife in Estherville, IA, Weyl served two years in the U.S. Army.  In 1962 he began teaching junior high school art in Burlington for the next four years.

In 1966 Weyl began his 31-year career, teaching art at Southeastern Community College in West Burlington, Iowa.  During these years he continued to produce his own art, as well as returning to the University of Northern Iowa to earn a Master's degree in Art.  Since his retirement from teaching in 1997 Weyl has continued to be active with his own work.

The Muscatine Art Center has received funding from Humanities Iowa, a private, non-profit state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, to host the presentation, "Grass Between the Rails", by Denny Rehder at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, Muscatine Art Center, 1314 Mulberry Avenue, Muscatine. A cultural resource for Iowans since 1971, Humanities Iowa offers many cultural and historical programs and grants to Iowa's communities. The performance is free and open to the public.

Denny Rehder created this program as an official Iowa Sesquicentennial event in 1996. His appearances around the state have been funded by Humanities Iowa and the National Endowment for the Humanities ever since. This will be his 89th performance.

Rehder has been a musician all his life. He has combined that ability with his love of Iowa history to produce "Grass Between the Rails," a celebration of Iowa's railroad heritage in words and original music. His songs cover the gamut of Iowa railroad history from the race for Council Bluffs to the Burlington Zephyr. Through his music, he visits the worst wreck ever, Iowa's best-known railroad hero, the road through Paradise, the one elephant circus and his family's ties to the Illinois Central.

He has been involved in the publication of several books on Iowa history. Four were published by his own Waukon & Mississippi Press, including his first book, "Grass Between the Rails," the history of the Waukon, Iowa, branch of the Milwaukee Road. He also wrote and published "The Shampoo King," the history of the F. W. Fitch Company and the famous Fitch Bandwagon radio show.

Now retired, he has been a professional writer and photographer for more than fifty years.  His work has received local, regional and national awards. Rehder grew up on a farm near Gladbrook overlooking the Chicago Great Western mainline.

All Aboard!  Join local railroad enthusiast, Bill Lindsay, for a talk and guided-tour of the exhibition, "Railroads of Muscatine County". Bill will share his knowledge of the seven main lines which serviced Muscatine such as the Rock Island Line; Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern; Muscatine North & South; and the Muscatine City Railway. This program is FREE.  This event is coming up on Sunday, August 17, 2014 from 2:00 - 3:00 PM at the Muscatine Art Center.  Lindsay will begin in the Music room of the Muscatine Art Center.

Admission to this event is FREE.

The Muscatine Art Center is open to the public Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 AM to 5 PM, Thursday from 10 AM to 7 PM and Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 5 PM Admission is FREE.

Please contact Deidre Pearson, Program Coordinator, with any questions at 563-263-8282 or by email at

Kick off your Fourth of July celebrations at the Annual Ice Cream Social presented by the Friends of the Muscatine Art Center. The event will be held on Sunday, June 29th from 1 to 5 p.m. As always, there will be plenty of ice cream, desserts, live music, family-friendly fun and an art fair.

Families are encouraged to bike to the Art Center as part of the Family Bike Ride organized by the Melon City Bike Club and Harper's Cycling & Fitness. The group will depart from Discovery Park at 1 p.m. and will have the option of a short 3-mile round-trip ride or a longer 10-mile ride. Both rides will stop at the Art Center, and participants will receive a coupon for a free ice cream.

The musical line-up for this year begins with the family group "Tammy and the Fyffe's" at 1 p.m. "Indigo Quartet" will take the stage at 2 p.m., and Muscatine favorite, "The Creepin' Charlies," will perform at 3:15 p.m.

Returning this year is a book sale and art fair. Local artists Carol Steinmetz, Joseph Barnard, Brad Nord, Chris Clark, and Ashley Hogenson and Iowa City artists, Yelena Mass and Connie Schumm, will offer their works for sale.

New this year is a Puppet Building Project with "Eulenspiegel Puppet Theatre" of West Liberty. Kids can help Eulenspiegel build and decorate a giant "Pearl of the Mississippi" puppet. Also new are activities presented by the Citizens for an Off-Leash Muscatine Park, including a chance for children to read to a therapy dog and pose for a photograph in a decorated dog house.

Freddie the Fire Truck will make an appearance, thanks to the City of Muscatine Fire Department. Kids' games, sponsored by Central State Bank, will include some annual favorites plus activities that relate to railroad history as a compliment to the exhibition, "Railroads of Muscatine County". In the studio, kids will create a "Thomas & Friends" finger puppet from felt.

The railroad exhibition features interesting artifacts and photographs and engaging components for the young and the 'young at heart' including a toy train table, a step-on caboose, and working "O and S Gauge" model railroads. Among the railroads featured in the exhibition are the Rock Island Lines, the Muscatine City Railway Company, and the Muscatine & Iowa City Railway, which did not survive its first year of incorporation. In the early 1900s, Muscatine had four active railroads, two inter-urbans and a city trolley system.

Also opening at the Ice Cream Social is an exhibition of Wood Carvings by Muscatine's own Norman Bunn. Norman is the nephew of William Bunn, the Muscatine artist who is famous for WPA Post Office Murals and Mississippi River boats and scenes. In his retirement, Norman began carving figures, birds, and animals which delight people of all ages. The wood carvings will be on exhibit in the Musser Mansion Gallery from June 1 through August 28, 2014.

Admission to the Ice Cream Social (and related events) is free. All proceeds from sales of ice cream, desserts, beverages and books will go to the Friends of the Muscatine Art Center. Each year, the Friends of the Muscatine Art Center financially contributes towards the educational programs offered at the Art Center, provides scholarships for students to attend studio classes offered through the Art Center and pays for busing for area schools to visit the Art Center.

The Muscatine Art Center is located at 1314 Mulberry Avenue in Muscatine, Iowa. Hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Thursday evenings until 7:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. Admission is free. Donations are appreciated.

Muscatine, Iowa (May 12, 2014) - The Muscatine Art Center has been selected to participate in the Museum Assessment Program (MAP). Through guided self-study and on-site consultation with a museum professional, participation in MAP will empower the Muscatine Art Center to better serve the citizens of Muscatine by facilitating its meeting and exceeding the highest professional standards of the museum field.

The program is funded by the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and throughout its 30 years has been administered by the American Association of Museums (AAM). As part of the IMLS National Leadership program, MAP advances best practices and fosters improvement in museums.  MAP is a self-motivated program; application to and participation in MAP is initiated by each local institution, and those accepted invest considerable human and institutional resources into the assessment.

By completing the MAP study, the Muscatine Art Center hopes to better understand the audiences that it serves or could potentially serve through audience evaluations and learn how to better respond to the needs of these audiences. Other goals include increasing the visibility of the Art Center in the Muscatine area and within a 60-mile radius and improve the Art Center's ability to identify and develop community partners.

MAP is a confidential process of self-study, peer review and implementation.  Museums use the assessment process to strengthen operations, build capacity, and enhance communication throughout the organization and in response to community needs.  Participant museums choose one of three categories for its assessment: Collections Stewardship Organizational, Community Engagement. The Muscatine Art Center will take part in the Community Engagement assessment process.  Small and mid-sized museums of all types, including art, history, science and technology, children's, natural history, historic houses, nature centers, botanical gardens, and zoos participate in the program.

"Choosing to be part of the MAP program is indicative of the commitment to civic involvement, public service and overall excellence on the part of the Muscatine Art Center," said Ford W. Bell, president of AAM. "Studies have shown America's museums to be among the country's most trusted and valued institutions. MAP is designed to make them even better."

Since its creation in 1981, the MAP program has served over 4,300 museums. MAP is supported through a cooperative agreement with IMLS. For more information, including a complete list of museums participating in MAP, please visit, call 202/289-9118 or e-mail

AAM is the only organization representing the nation's entire museum community and has been dedicated to promoting excellence within the museum field for over 100 years. For more information about AAM, visit The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. To learn more about the Institute, please visit:

For more information, please call Melanie Alexander, Director of the Muscatine Art Center, at (563) 263-8282 or e-mail

Marvin Cone: Quiet Integrity art talk will be given on the third Thursday, May 15, at 5:30 p.m. at Muscatine Art Center. The program will provide information about the life of Marvin Cone, including his long friendship with Grant Wood. The two met in high school, traveled to Paris, attended the Art Institute of Chicago, and joined forces in the summer of 1932 and 1933 to create Stone City Art Colony. As people they were opposites and each followed a different path, but they did influence each other.

Cone and Wood were both active in the Cedar Rapids Art Association, one of the oldest art organizations in Iowa, which later becomes the Cedar Rapids Art Museum. The program will include the history of the association and many images from the Muscatine Art Center, Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, Coe College and Figge Art Museum  The cultural environment of Cedar Rapids provided both Cone and Wood with exposure to well known artists and the inspiration to become artists.

Marvin Cone lived in Cedar Rapids, married, raised a family, and taught at Coe College. Although, he does not have the fame of Grant Wood, it is clear that he was a skilled artist and an important figure in American painting.

After graduating from Coe College with liberal arts degree, he attended the Art Institute of Chicago with Grant Wood. Both joined the army during World War I. Because Marvin Cone could speak French, he was selected to attend the University of Montpellier, France, in February of 1919 before returning home. Marvin returned to Cedar Rapids to teach French at Coe College. The following summer Cone and Wood traveled to Paris, London, Liverpool, and Antwerp. Both painted in the Impressionistic style and held an exhibition of their artworks on the ship as they return to Cedar Rapids.

On the same return trip home, Grant Wood introduced Marvin to Winnifred Swift whom Marvin married in 1921. Winifred and Marvin had one daughter, Doris.

During the 1920s, Cone's activities included starting the art department at Coe College and keeping an active schedule of exhibitions with the Cedar Rapids Art Association. At the time, Cedar Rapids was a thriving atmosphere for the arts and in 1928, the American Federation of Arts and Carnegie Foundation provided a $50,000 grant to open The Little Gallery, and Edward Rowan was hired as a trained museum administrator. Rowan arranged for Cone and his wife to go back to Paris in 1929. In 1930, Grant Wood, received the Art Institute award for American Gothic and became famous.

1932, Marvin Cone and Grant Wood taught at the Stone City Colony and Art School. Background information and images of the Stone City Colony are included in the program. Courses at the Stone City Colony were accredited by Coe College. Unfortunately, the Depression caused the Colony to close after two summers. Grant Wood went on to teach at the University of Iowa, while Cone was appointed professor of painting at Coe College.

The art talk will take you through Marvin Cone's styles: landscapes, haunting interiors, barns, circus scenes, and finally abstract images. Unlike artists associated with regionalist and American scene painting of the 1930s, Marvin Cone would integrate his firsthand observation and move from realism to abstraction. Cone's work includes more than rural Midwest scenes.

On May 18, 1965, Marvin Cone died. As a tribute to his forty years of teaching, Coe College established the Marvin Cone Collection and the Marvin Cone Alumni collection with his artwork on display. The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art provided images for the program as the museum has one of the largest collection of Marvin Cone's works in the United States.




"Stories and Cuentos", a puppet show presented in both English and Spanish by Eulenspiegel Puppet Theatre, will offered for FREE on Thursday, May 8, at 5:30 p.m. on the grounds of the Muscatine Art Center. The public is encouraged to bring blankets and/or lawn chairs as the performance will be held in the E. Bradford Burns Performing Arts Park (just west of the Musser House on Mulberry). In case of rain, the performance will be moved to Central Auditorium.

Developed and performed by Monica Leo and Mexican puppeteer Eli Portugal, co-founder of Mojiganga Arte Escenico, this performance includes two classic Mexican animal tales. "The Rabbit in the Moon", a well-known myth, gives a whimsical explanation for the shadows we see in the moon, while delighting audiences with the age old battle of wits between rabbit and coyote. "The Musical Ant", a less known tale, follows Hormiguita (little ant) as he learns to play the piano and brings peace to his ant colony through music. The production uses hand puppets, rod puppets, masked characters, and music.

Monica Leo has been creating and performing as founder and principal puppeteer of Eulenspiegel Puppet Theatre since 1975. Eulenspiegel has toured in 28 states and four other countries and is a former winner of the Iowa Arts Award. Eli Portugal of Jalapa, Mexico, studied music, theatre, and dance at the University of Veracruz in Mexico. In addition to her performance and design skills, she has extensive experience teaching workshops to children as well as to teachers.

Reservations are not required to attend the puppet performance.


The public is invited to join the Muscatine Art Center on Sunday, April 27th at 2:00 p.m. as it hosts Humanities Iowa Speaker, Loren Horton. Horton will give a 45 minute presentation on the changes in Iowa life over the past 150 years. His presentation will include the origins of the people, the technology, and the occupations and social customs of Iowans. Horton will also touch on the history of the state's economy and politics and explore the changes that have shaped Iowa's present and changes that will continue to shape Iowa's future and the future of its residents.

Loren Horton began his employment with the State Historical Society of Iowa in 1972. Since his retirement in 1996, Horton has concentrated on research in 19th century social history and comparative funeral and burial customs in the United States.

This program is funded by Humanities Iowa, a private, non-profit state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. A cultural resource for Iowans since 1971, Humanities Iowa brings humanities programs into the heart of Iowa communities.

The humanities are fields of study that help us to discover and remember who we are and how we came to be, as individuals and as part of the world. Humanities Iowa offers funding for this Speakers Bureau event and for grants in support of public programs to non-profit organizations in the state of Iowa.

Please contact Melanie Alexander, Director, with any questions or concerns at 563-263-8282 or by email at For more information about Humanities Iowa, visit

The Muscatine Art Center is open to the public Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 AM to 5 PM, Thursday from 10 AM to 7 PM and Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 5 PM Admission is FREE.