Although the Democratic National Convention is over, American history presently remains in the making. For Philadelphia, the unique installation of public art sang a strong note to incoming visitors, both colorfully and evocatively. This year Philadelphia welcomed delegates, speakers, incumbent leaders, and (fingers crossed!) future leaders with clean streets and thought-worthy public art made by local artists; celebrating the Democratic Party’s accomplishments and bringing forth the ongoing sense of hope to resonate with the nation. Of the many pieces decorating our streets were 57 fiberglass donkeys, creatively spread (both indoors and out) throughout Old City, Center city, and the Art Museum district–and had become quite a hit to both tourists and locals, as they were part of an interactive scavenger hunt. One night at the Hyatt as the grand prize? Absolutely. Take that Pokemon Go!
Titled Donkeys Around Town, the project was brought into fruition by The Philadelphia 2016 Host Committee, The Mural Arts Program, and ArtJawn. Each donkey represents a U.S. state or territory, four of which were made by two inLiquid Members: Kathryn Pannenpacker and Colleen McCubbin Stepanic. Amidst the huge success in publicity Donkeys Around Town was receiving, we were able to catch up with our two members in an interview.
Our Site Editor Elizabeth reports:
Elizabeth: Did it come as a surprise being assigned (to Kathryn) Northern Mariana Islands, Rhode Island, (to Colleen) Colorado and Nevada?
Colleen: Yes. We were assigned pretty much randomly except for a few artists.
Kathryn: I’m not sure how ‘partnering’ was determined. I just took it as ‘an assignment’; did my research, and had fun with it. Both places are beautiful and rich with history to glean ideas from.
Nevada by Colleen Stepanic
Elizabeth: As artists, do any of these states/U.S. territories resonate with you? Or did you have to do an extensive amount of research finding state-motifs to embellish the donkey with?
Kathryn: I did a bunch of research as I was wanting to find motifs to paint for a repeat pattern. I have a painterly/textile style of designing/working (as a textile artist & painter), so I really wanted my donkeys to have that ’textile’ sensibility. I ‘had’ to pick the Rhode Island Red hen (State bird), as I’m a site manager in Germantown at an historic property where we take care of chickens! I also picked the flag, as the yellow color is bright and bold; plus it has the word ‘hope’- I like that. I was drawn to the state flower, the violet, as it’s a lovely gentle surprising flower. The Northern Mariana Islands has great beautiful visuals to ‘draw from’ as well. The hut, the fire tree and fruit dove.
North Mariana Islands by Kathryn Pannepacker
Colleen: I did some research. They gave us images when they assigned us the donkeys. The delegates choose 6 items they wanted on the donkey and we had to use at least 3. I’ve been out west, although not much in either Nevada or Colorado, and I love the natural resources they have. I focused on the landscape a lot for both donkeys. I added Nevada’s Red Rocks onto the legs even though it wasn’t on their list. I had more fun painting their neon Reno & Las Vegas signs than I expected but I couldn’t leave out such great rocks.
Elizabeth: How was your experience working in a huge North Philadelphia warehouse (Tioga Marine Terminal) with other artists?
Colleen: The warehouse was great and it was a lot of fun working side by side the other artists. The Tioga Marine Terminal is very cool and it was nice to get an inside look. The people working there were very helpful.
Colorado by Colleen Stepanic
Kathryn: Working in the warehouse with other artists was awesome. I felt like we were hidden away on a residency. Getting to and from the warehouse was a pain in the ass, as it was not accessible by public transportation, and it was in the far off ‘lands’ of nowhere. But it all worked out fabulously, making car ride connections… I liked working intensely, days in a row, long crazy ass hours— like when I paint a mural.
Elizabeth: Do you have any idea if your donkeys are featured in the scavenger hunt app? How does it feel to see your work in social media on such a large scale?
Colleen: I don’t know about the app since I haven’t used it. but it’s great to see all the photos and reports about the project.
Kathryn: How does it feel to see this project all over social media? I’m not sure about the map… I love that the project is all over social media. The organizers, ArtJawn and Mural Art Program have done a fabulous job. I received a little ‘push-back’ about how I painted my donkeys, but I was true to my approved design and style of painting.
You can still take a look at all 57 donkeys until Labor Day Weekend. Colleen’s donkeys can be found in front of the Union League building on Broad and Sansom Street (Ed Rendell pose for a photo in front of it!), and in front of the Logan Hotel at Logan Square. Kathryn’s donkeys can be found (if you want indoor relief from this heatwave!) in the lobby of the National Constitution Center and downstairs at the Comcast Building inside of the Comcast Marketplace.