Monday, March 10, 2008

Two Things Challenge: Red / Blue / Purple

Star, the Carousel Donkey and Grand Old Pachyderm-- part of D.C.'s Party Animals event in 2002

This week's challenge was a play on the political demographic that pundits talk about in the United States: Red States vs. Blue States and the odd anomaly: the Purple State (equal division of Red and Blue.) Of course, Red signifies conservative, Republican-leaning states, while Blue stands for liberal, Democratic-leaning states. In 2002, the D.C. Arts Commission sent out a call to artists to participate in a public art display that took an idea from the city of Chicago and applied it to the nation's capital. This first competition and commission was called Party Animals and artists could either decorate an elephant, symbol of the Grand Old Party (GOP) or Republicans, or a donkey, symbol of the Democratic Party. The Party Animals were a huge hit with tourists. At the end of the commission period, the animals were auctioned off to the highest bidders. These two: Grand Old Pachaderm and Stars, The Carousel Donkey, sit outside the University Club on 16th Street. Ergo, Red and Blue!

PandaMania invades the city in 2004!

Two years later, the D.C. Arts Commission again sent out a call to artists to decorate the city's second most popular tourist attraction: the giant pandas at the National Zoo. They called the event PandaMania and it too was a huge hit with folks living in and around D.C., as well as those who came to visit. While there isn't a lot that Americans can agree on in politics (as exemplified by the Red / Blue divide), there is one thing we all pretty much agree on: the enduring adorability and tenacity of the giant panda. This one sits outside Ben's Chili Bowl on U Street. And since we all--Red and Blue--can agree that Ben's is great and pandas are greater, you get Purple!

Okay, I know. Big stretches there. But there you have it: Red, Blue, and Purple in Washington, D.C.!

Photo copyrights: D.C. Confidential.

15 comments:

Mike Licht said...

You overstate the case: these projects were not "popular with everybody." They were popular with lovers of one-line-joke kitsch, corporations that sponsored items and decorators who specialize in this cookie-cutter contest across the US.

People aware of the shady ethics of these enterprises, the way they fritter away scarce public art funds and the labor of public servants, the way they convert the District's only public art agency into one more tourist shill and capital budget dollars into program budget (against the law) are not fond of littering the landscape with fiberglass animals.

See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A63481-2004May28.html

to start with; then try the AP item at:

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/feat/archives/2003/08/09/2003062982

and then http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F03E0DB1038F931A25754C0A9669C8B63

There are dozens of other articles, but these should do to start.

d.c. confidential said...

Mike: Thank you for this information and adding the other-side-of-the-aisle perspective to these two events in Washington.

b.c. said...

works for me-- (i guess I am blessedly unaware of "shady ethics" and can therefore enjoy these "one-line joke kitsch" etc etc) great post--chicago had the decorated cows and bulls dotting the city three or four or five? years back--it was a huge hit for everyone including public servants and public art agencies...it wasn't just the tourists enjoying them...

Jess said...

Okay maybe a tiny bit of stretching but still, a great theme! I liked the cows in NYC a few years back. Though I do find the first comment on this post intriguing.

Bev said...

I think mike licht lacks a certain joie de vivre or sense of humour. Fortuntately I am far too far away to suffer any backlash to my comments so I can really say what I like.

I was curious about these when I came to the Two Things thumbnails, and think they add to the gaity of nations (literally) and are just a bit of fun. They look very attractive.

Also thanks to the background to blue/red/purple as I didn't really know what this meant. Well, I should get educated about all things American from a blogger in the very capital lol

d.c. confidential said...

All: You know what they say: "Art is in the eye of the beholder." Personally, I enjoyed them. And, even if funds were misused or critics hated them, that doesn't change the fact that after 9/11, they brought tourists back to this city and infused the economy with tax revenue. Can't complain about that.


B.C.: I missed Chicago's bulls, but I heard they were fabulous. I have seen other iterations. In Maryland, they did orioles; in San Jose, it was sharks; and in San Francisco, it was hearts. Even Tony Bennett did one. It can be seen on permanent display in Union Square.


Jess: Good to see you here! Yeah! (I love your comments.) And yes, this was a bit of a stretch, particularly on the Purple interpretation. I thought Mike's information was interesting, too. Sort of par for the course for D.C. One of these days we'll get our sh*t together and actually start behaving like a legitimate government.

Bev: My pleasure! And don't you think something like this in Devon would be fun? What would they choose as their mascot?

Bev said...

DC, I have returned, as I suspect you thought I would, because I was interested in the debate. I have also been on mike licht's excellent website about the capital. I think he obviously knows his stuff, and has well argued his case here.

For Devon (although I don't actually live there) a cream tea (though difficult to paint), or a sea shell, or an Exmoor pony.

Bev said...

Reading my earlier comment I really got steamed up defending your pictures!

D.C. Confidential said...

Bev: Not a problem. It's nice to be defended. And sorry for my gaffe on Devon. You're in Hull, right? Okay, what would it's mascot be.

As for Mike, yes, he does have good information on his site and seems to be very engaged in the issues that plague and thwart our fair city. As I said, I appreciate the other perspective he brought to this particular photo series. I'm all for balanced and objective!

The Artful Eye said...

I like your choices and must admit I was clueless with regard to the purple, now I understand.

Lisa Sarsfield said...

I for one think they are adorable. I wouldn't have them as sculptures in my garden but they're obviously not intended to be that. It's a shame they seem to be causing conflect however it's not the first argument to be had about art and public funds and certainly won't be the last! Thanks for sharing.

PS: I think you dealt with Mike's comments well. His attack wasn't on you rather the art itself and I was glad to read the other side of the story.

d.c. confidential said...

AE: Isn't American politics a fascinating beast? At the very least, we can say our two party system is colorful!


Lisa: I agree! And thank you for your kind words about Mike's contribution to the information here. He brought up issues I wasn't aware of and I appreciate that.

dianeclancy said...

Hi DC,

These are wonderful pictures!! What great statues!! You have such a fun eye. I hadn't put together what the purple meant until just now .. call me slow.

~ Diane Clancy
www.DianeClancy.com/blog
www.YourArtMarketing.com

Bev said...

I've come back again. This could go on forever! Hull would be a trawler (fishing boat) as it used to be a fishing port.

D.C. Confidential said...

Diane: Thank you!

Bev: Fishing trawlers, eh? Interesting. You could do a fish walk and the theme could be "There's something fishy in Hull"....