Tuesday, September 12, 2000

These little piggies go to market

        In the midst of construction dust and orange barrels, in a place where the Ohio River can be wider than it looks — wider than it should be — came the pigs. Elaborate, colorful, punny.

        They were not alone.

        Bloomington, Ill., celebrated its 150th birthday with Corn on the Curb — gigantic painted corncobs, including a bearded Abraham Lincorn and a fruit topped Cornmin Miranda.

        Orlando soon will be crawling with fiberglass lizards, including Lizardbeth Taylor, Iguana Trump and Queen Lizardbella.

        A Sweet Gar Named Desire trolls New Orleans in high-heeled flippers and fish-net stockings.

Udder rip-off
               Horse Mania in Lexington, chickens in Seattle, moose in Toronto, Snoopy in Minneapolis-St. Paul, mermaids in Norfolk, flying horses in Dallas, Mr. Potato Head in Rhode Island, salmon in Washington ...

        Well, you get the idea.

        All are udder rip-offs of last year's Cows on Parade in Chicago. New York City didn't even bother to think up a new animal. Just some new puns, which for some reason are as obligatory as the art itself.

        Not all fiberglass public art projects are created equal. ArtWorks director Tamara Harkavy, coordinator of the Big Pig Gig, says cities all over the country have called to ask how they can duplicate the Gig's success.

Elegant swineherd
               “I can't give them a blueprint,” Tamara says, “because it would have to include Melody Sawyer Richardson. And she is one of a kind.”

        Tireless. Smart. Influential. The arts patron took the piggies under her elegant wing.

        “Melody is incredible,” says Cincinnati Councilman Jim Tarbell. “This wouldn't have happened without her.”

        The goal was to recruit artists and sell pig sponsorships for $2,800 to $10,000, depending on the location. Chicago had about 320 cows. “But I'd like to do better than that,” Melody said.

        And she has.

        More than 400 pigs will roam the streets until they're rounded up for auction. By then, these porkers are supposed to have fattened the local economy by about $170 million.

        A Big Pig Gig photo book (for which I volunteered to write the intro) is due out next month and already has sold more than 10,000 orders. The Gig is taking orders ($34.95) at its Web site (www.bigpiggig.com), where you also can find out which piggies are going to market.

        At the end of the Chicago project, 142 cows were sold for a total of $3.5 million. Sponsors here have agreed to donate 183 pigs back to the Gig for auction, and Tamara expects several more by the Friday deadline. Sixty-five will be sold Nov. 13 by auctioneer Jay Karp at Music Hall, and the balance on the Internet Nov. 1-11.

        Proceeds will benefit approximately 100 nonprofit organizations. Half the money will go to the sponsor's charity, half to ArtWorks, an arts-based employment and job-training program.

        Charities range from medical research to arts groups to social agencies. Tamara says she can't guess how much money will come in on the auctions. “But I'd never want to underestimate the power of pigs.”

        The Big Pig Gig already has managed to bring together artists, corporations, charity and tourism. It has brought together volunteers from Cincinnati and Newport and Covington.

        Even before these little piggies go to market, they have been getting us to say “we we we.”

        E-mail Laura at lpulfer@enquirer.com or call (513) 768-8393.

        Find past pig profiles and event details at Cincinnati.com/bigpiggig


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