The Capital of Annapolis

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Who knew chickens had so much pluck? The designs for the first brood of Annapolis bird sculptures include psychedelic, robotic, frozen, technological, photographic and oceanographic takes on the subject.

And the inaugural 51/2-foot-tall chicken has proven resilient at its nest next to the Lemongrass restaurant, resisting thieves and vandals.

The half-dozen new chicks should be in the coop by late next month, timed to the second annual Annapolis Fringe Festival. The exact locations haven’t been released, but the sculptures will be on private property along West Street — and chained down to prevent further theft attempts. The artists leading the chicken charge are: Walker Babington, Terri Borges, Sally Wern Comport, Casey Johnson, Charles Lawrance, and Matt Mercer. Mercer, a College Park resident, is the only one from outside of Annapolis.

“We need everyone to think of the arts when they enter the arts district,” said April Nyman, executive director of the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County. “To have public art in view will make people feel the presence.”

A panel of four chose the designs from 15 proposals.

“The greatest thing is that they’re all different,” said Lesley Bender, an artist, a member of the arts council, and one of the panelists. “They showed a lot of spunk.”

The designs that didn’t make the cut weren’t totally rejected. They’ll be part of the pool for the next round of sculptures. In all, organizers of the “Hatching the Arts” project hope to eventually have 20 chickens.

“Every city has chosen a mascot, I guess you could say, to display public art,” Nyman said. “Chickens had not been chosen and seemed to fit the current legislation.”

She was referring to the law passed in the spring allowing residents to have backyard chickens. The project is a playful nod to the legislation, and the designs reflect the whimsical spirit.

“I’m really thrilled,” said Gavin Buckley, one of the panelists and main organizers. “I can’t imagine how good it’s going to get once five or six chickens are on the street. Public art — it makes people feel good doesn’t it?”

Well, not everyone.

Jody Danek, Buckley’s partner in the Lemongrass, Metropolitan and Tsunami restaurants, said there are already some “haters.”

But Danek’s not discouraged. In fact, he likes it. “They’re talking about it,” he said. “That’s what art should be. Not everyone loves the same thing.”

At the same time, the chicken outside Lemongrass, has generated endless jokes and plenty of people stop and snap pictures with the sculpture. It was designed by Jimi “HaHa” Davies and Jeff Huntington and has been ruling the roost for about a month.

“At first, people didn’t know what to think, but people are getting behind it now,” Buckley said.

Some are perhaps a little too over egg-cited. Twice, people have tried to steal the chicken, and another time it was toppled over. Thankfully, the would-be thieves didn’t get very far, and there was no major damage from the fall. Buckley suspects the people involved may have had a little too much to drink.

Joining The Flock

Johnson, who is behind the frozen chicken sculpture, is glad organizers didn’t choose sailboats, crabs or fish for public art.

Besides the fact that they’ve all been used before, chickens offer more humor, more possibilities, and are more out-of-the-box, Johnson and the other artists said.

“It just gives the arts district a little more oomph; more presence,” said Johnson, who is director of the artist-in-residence program at Creative Paradox. “It’s something different and it causes people to look.”

Johnson’s design isn’t meant to be a commentary on food, he just thought a frozen chicken would be humorous. He plans to paint the body to look like raw chicken and encase the head in what should resemble a block of ice.

Borges has a bit more social commentary in mind with her “iChicken,” made from discarded computer parts and DVDs, although the fun hasn’t escaped her, either.

“I like the fact that Annapolis is stretching its artistic wings, even though chickens don’t fly,” she said.

Comport’s design, which will be a wrap of black and white photographs and drawings of city images, is meant as a homage to Annapolis. It’s also a collaborative project, since her studio assistants, neighbors and children will lend a hand.

“The Annapolis art-lover has mainly been traditional, and it’s my way of inviting the traditional art-lover into this project,” she said.

Lawrance’s design, “Chicken of the Sea,” encompasses marine art, also a staple in Annapolis, but in a definitely nontraditional way.

His chicken will be made of sea creatures, with an octopus painted on the head, and wings painted in the shape of a school of fish. He hopes organizers will place it as close to the water as possible. “It’s going to be yearning for the water, anyway,” he joked.

Mercer’s chicken might be yearning for the 1960s because of its psychedelic design. “It could possibly resemble a flower-child chicken,” he said.

Mercer chose the pattern because he was already painting in that style. He heard about the chicken project on Facebook and figured it’d be entertaining to submit a proposal.

Chicken seems to be a thread in his life anyway. His father retired to a chicken farm and Mercer designs murals for a chain of chicken restaurants.

If anyone tries to make off with his chicken, or any of the others, despite the security measures, Babington’s bird will be there to protect them.

Called BOCK for Biomechanical, Ovulometrical Chicken from Kalamazoo, Babington’s creation is a kind of cyborg god of eggs. “He’s sort of a chicken superhero,” said the artist. “He’s almost a terminator.”

Babington specializes in making art from found objects, as well as burning images into various materials. Among the proposed parts for BOCK are an old copper gutter for a beak guard and driftwood for the tail.

Babington was attracted to the project because it’s something different for the city. BOCK should fit right in. “It adds a sense of the weird,” he said, “which Annapolis truly needs.”

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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