Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Artists monkeying around downtown

PANAMA CITY — More than 200 handcut and handpainted apes will dangle from trees, poles, awnings — and anywhere else they can find to hang from — Saturday in downtown Panama City.

It’s a “public art” project spearheaded by Heather Parker from CityArts Cooperative. Like their tiny toy counterparts, the foam apes are shaped with hooked arms and tails.

“We chose this shape, from Hasbro’s ‘Barrel of Monkeys’ for several reasons,” Heather said. “A childhood connection (many adults had them or saw them as a child), their arms link together to form a chain (great alone as one monkey, but can connect with each other and have a big impact, kind’a like people, huh?), and well, they’re monkeys!”

Heather was joined by many people intrigued or amused by the project. Adults, children, school groups, professional artists, Friday Fest visitors, business owners and bunches of “regular people” helped make monkeys, she said.

“We’ve had at least 100 hands in the barrel helping to make this happen, from purchasing foam, donating paints, meticulously hand-cutting monkeys, or just dropping by to quickly add a splash of paint,” she said. 
“Some of the monkeys are impressive one-of-a-kind works of art.”

Heather pointed out that Wikipedia defines “public art” as works of art in any media that have been planned and executed with the specific intention of being sited or staged in the physical public domain, usually outside and accessible to all. Such cultural interventions have often been realized in response to creatively engaging a community’s sense of “place” or “well-being” in society.

“Imagine a downtown that is a place you want to be,” she said. “Would it be lively, colorful, lighthearted, joyful, playful, entertaining, filled with talent, self-expression and creativity? Mine would. So for one day, I’m filling it with colorful monkeys.”

Heather hopes this and other public art events will bring more people downtown and expose them to the possibilities of art. She would like downtown Panama City (along with St. Andrews) to become a regional art hub, and to make art a “living, breathing way of life” for everyone.

The day promises to be a full one in the downtown district, with Vintage Market 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., an artist meet-and-greet at Main Street Gallery 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., a paper-cutting workshop at CityArts 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the Art-Tique “tour” 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Monkey installation is from 6 to 9 a.m., if anyone wants to help Heather hang the monkeys. Display will be 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., after which the monkeys will be removed.

“We expect some to fall throughout the day, which is why they are all handcut from lightweight Styrofoam,” she said. “If a monkey falls on your head, you’ve got a great story, but no injury: ‘One time, I was downtown, you’ll never believe this, but a ...’ ”

Art is about more than murals and painting, Heather told me once. It’s about exploring, laughter and joy.


Peace.

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