Arts and Ornamentation of Common Areas : LUSENET : Kentlands : One Thread

Where is the best place among Kentland's common areas to put public art?

(Note: The KCA's Arts and Ornamentation Committee has made a proposal to the Board of Trustees to acquire two sculptures--one donkey and one elephant--from the collection of Party Animal sculptures on display in downtown DC. There is a front-page article in the current Town Crier about this. The Board wants the Committee to obtain public comments on an appropriate site, or whether such sculptures are a good idea. As a member of the Committee, I am interested in any commnents or questions. Thanks, RM.)

-- Bob Mauri (, July 21, 2002



I think a good place would be at the clubhouse near the flagpole or near the school on the circle at Kent Oaks Way.

-- Joel Aronson (, July 21, 2002.

First, let me say on behalf of my family that we think buying a donkey and elephant is a great idea.

As far as where it should go, we vote for the clubhouse lawn. The donkey should obviously have a more prominent position!!! Perhaps the elephant could be placed face down on the lawn with a hunter standing over it.

J,L,J&J Paiva

-- Lauren Paiva (, July 21, 2002.

Helllllpppp. I have been waiting for the day when the two of these bulky creatures that so suddenly and rudely moved into a space I frequent in D.C. disappear from that place forever. Now, I have to worry that they may show up in my own community.

Personally, I would rather see Kentlands' ornamented with more timeless pieces of art. However, if we MUST have an elephant and a donkey from the "Party Animals" collection—and my feeling is that they should BOTH be placed face down on the clubhouse lawn—then, please, go WAY whimsical. I think it is the only hope of being able to live with the things over the long-term.

Of those that I have seen (only 9 or 10), the one that I think is the most whimsical is the elephant that is located in front of the Turkish Embassy at 2525 Massachusetts Avenue, NW. Sunshine yellow, legless, and with wings for ears, she seems to be flying right out of a children's storybook. Of course, I have not seen her up close. Her name is "Florida Hybrid," and I understand she is decorated with butterfly ballots.

Oh, well. No matter. Apparently, when the Green Party protested that we have more than two parties in this country, a judge ruled that the Party Animals are art, not political speech. So, no one in the community should object if something like Florida Hybrid were to be purchased as the elephant. Right?

-- Mary N. Macdonald (, July 22, 2002.


Thanks for your comments. I guess that you are voting "no." You could help our committee if you would define what you mean by more "timeless" pieces of art. We are open to all sorts of ideas, as long as they fit within the budget that the Board has provided. The Party Animals website now has pictures of about forty of the sculptures, although I did not see your yellow elephant:

-- Bob Mauri (, July 22, 2002.

By a "timeless" piece of art I mean something that has intrinsic, aesthetic value that transcends time. My personal feeling is that the Party Animals, while campy and fun, do not fall into that category. The two that I have had the opportunity to see on a regular basis brought a smile to my face the first couple of times I saw them, but only because they were so outrageously gaudy and camp. Very quickly, I started to just wish they would go away, so I wouldn't have to look at them anymore. My main concern is that, if Kentlands were to adopt two of these creatures, they would not wear well over the years.

Another question I have is, are these statues particularly subject to vandalism? One of my sisters told me that there was a report on the ABC news last Friday that said 25 of the 200+ statues have already been vandalized. But I could not find a reference to this on the ABC Web site. Maybe someone else saw the broadcast and could add something here. Meanwhile, my search did turn up a reference to problems with vandalizing of the moose statues in Toronto. See "Having a Cow Over Moose".

Still, I am not necessarily voting "no" on the Party Animals. I am saying that, as far as those statues are concerned, I "would prefer not, unless." The "unless" is, unless two purely whimsical, apolitical statues could be found. "Florida Hybrid" is really quite wonderful, from a distance, at least. But, then, she is apparently plastered with butterfly ballots and might, in any event, not be up for auction.

I was also unable, by the way, to find a picture of Florida Hybrid among those posted on the Party Animals site. I learned that she's covered with butterfly ballots at: dyn/articles/A43169-2002Jul22.html. I called the Party Animals organization to make sure that this was the same yellow elephant I'd seen in front of the Turkish Embassy, and they verified that it was. She really is very creative.

-- Mary N. Macdonald (, July 22, 2002.

First I want to commend Bob and other members of the Arts and Ornamentation Committee for their ideas. I thought the chess tables on the Green were ideal for our community and perfectly placed at that site. I'm afraid that I don't like the donkey and elephant sculptures for the Kentlands. They're perfect for D.C. Can't we come up with an idea that more appropriately represents the Kentlands? A Canada goose has all kinds of possibilities. So do large models of Gaithersburg historic buildings e.g., the Mansion, Casey Barn, the Cider Barrel. These could be the size of playhouses. Several years ago the City was donated several of these models and they were raffled off. Might we repeat this idea? The Clubhouse lawn near the playground could be an initial site.

-- Nora H. Caplan (, July 24, 2002.

I have always liked the statues next to the stage at city hall - the tortise and hare musicians.

The party animals are likely to be vandalized. In two different times the last month I've an Erlich bumper sticker torn off my car while it parked in the Kentlands area. On other occassions someone has pulled up a political poster , ripped it up and scattered the pieces in my flower bed. They had to come about 5 feet past the sidewalk fence in order to reach the poster.

If the party animals are purchased, the choice for the Republican figure ought to be made by vote of the residents registered as Republicans, and the Democrat figure by registered Democrats. Independents and others can vote on whether both are posed nomally or whether both should be posed with their heads buried: Sort of like the Cadillac display in Texas.

-- Rick Marvin (, July 25, 2002.

How about a very simple kinetic sculpture, Bob—one that plays with a few simple shapes, light and shadows? I would vote "yes" in a heartbeat for something like that.

Another question I have about the Party Animals is, what would the process be for the Board's approving the purchase? Obviously, this is a case of not all animals being created equal, so the Board would not be able to just generically approve the purchase of "an elephant and a donkey."

As an example, consider the two Party Animals shown in this month's Town Crier. I do not belong to any political party, but it strikes me that there is a decided lack of balance in the way the Republican and Democratic Parties are portrayed by these two particular creatures. The donkey is proudly wearing the images of individuals whose occupations suggest strength, courage and dedication and whose diversity suggests the inclusion of all. The elephant, on the other hand, is wearing prison garb (the stripes) and a mask that, with the jail duds, suggests he's a bandit. (I can't tell from the photograph what the picture on elephant's side is, but the underlying theme of thievery is there.) With the two juxtaposed, the message I get is that the Democratic Party is the true party of the people, while the Republican Party is a bunch of crooks who stole the election.

So, I think that the Board and the Arts and Ornamentation Committee need to be extremely careful—and the community, very vigilant—on this one. There is place in the community for ornamentation that is not aesthetically pleasing to each and every one of us. That is the way of it. Political statements in the guise of ornamentation are another matter.

-- Mary N. Macdonald (, July 25, 2002.

I vote no for the donkey and elephant sculptures. Doesn't the committee have more important things on which to waste their time?

Thanks for soliciting public comments, Jonathan McDonald

-- Jonathan McDonald (, July 25, 2002.

Ever since I learned of the concept of artists doing sculptures of this type [my 1st recollection is the ones in Chicago (?was that the first?)]], I thought it was a terrific idea.

I'd love to have a pair of them in Kentlands! It's really *perfect* for us: a mix of the 2 parties, as The Kentlands is a mix...something fun and creative....the artists would love having their sculptures so close to home. As for security, couldn't we just post a surveillance camera at the site as well? I would like the donkey & the elephant to be placed on the lawn where we have the Octoberfest [I can't think of the name just now]--one facing east, one west.....or one north and one south --whatever.

-- Nancy Millman (, July 25, 2002.

I would like to echo the concern about potential vandalism. These highly decorated sculptures could become perennial problems. I would prefer something that would be more integrated with its intended surroundings, rather than something which stands out so strongly from them.

-- Marsha Hopp (, July 26, 2002.

Let me start responding to some of the comments from all the folks who have taken the time and interest to participate in this enlightening discussion. Vandalism is on the top of my list of concerns. I intend to discuss the issue with the folks who are running the DC project to see what they are experiencing. Also, I think that certain sites in Kentlands would be less prone to vandalism than others. For example, the space behind the Carriage House seems good because of all the watchful eyes from the DPZ office, the users of the Carriage House, and the patrons and employees of the Arts Barn. Nevertheless, there will always be some risk of damage to whatever outside structures we have in Kentlands. By the way,the chess tables on the Green, our Committee's project from last year, are surviving quite well so far.

In regard to Nora's comment, I don't agree that any artwork that we acquire necessarily has to represent Kentlands. It's my understanding that the two Kent Bloomer pieces (the ring of leafy stone chairs near the Pavillion, and the leafy fountain and metal "peristyle" in Market Sq.) are the products of the City of Gaithersburg Arts in Public Places program. I don't see any overt connection to Kentlands in those works. Do they really need to have one? Is that a criterion of the City Program? Also, the bronze bear and other surrounding figures over at the Rio Center (located in the sitting area between Rio Grande Cafe and Joe's Crab Shack) don't necessarily represent Rio.

My understanding of our Committee's mandate is that we are to present ideas of "adorning" some of Kentlands' common areas and public spaces in such a way that people of all ages may want to be there for some moments, or at least take some pleasure in viewing the site as they pass by. As for geese: there are times of the year when those of us who walk around the lakes and dodge the minefield of goose poop think they are a curse rather than an appropiate symbol of Kentlands. And I support wildlife!

As for "timeless art," it may be hard to acquire a Michaelangelo's David (with or without figleaf) when our Committee is working with a paint-by-the-numbers-kit budget.

To be continued.......

-- Bob Mauri (, July 26, 2002.

btw, the KCA documents prohibit public display of statuary unless it is of "museum quality". We may end up setting a standard here that includes any garden gnome, or plastic flamingo, with an unusual paint scheme as "museum quality".

-- Rick Marvin (, July 26, 2002.

Bob, would you please address this question I posted on July 25th: "what would the process be for the Board's approving the purchase?" Given that at least some of the Party Animals make political statements (i.e., beyond being simply mascots for the two major parties), I want to know how the Board is going to handle the situation.

-- Mary N. Macdonald (, July 26, 2002.

Also, Bob, I said that I would rather Kentlands be ornamented with art that is "more timeless" than the Party Animals and defined "a ‘timeless' piece of art" for you as "something that has intrinsic, aesthetic value that transcends time" (July 22 postings). I am perplexed how you got from there to Michaelangelo's David. Again, a main concern I have about the Party Animals from an aesthetic viewpoint is that they would not wear well over the years, because of their gaudiness.

I have to believe that are there plenty of struggling artists producing work that would both stand the test of time and fit within a "paint-by-the-numbers-kit" budget. However, if we truly do not have the funds to purchase art that we and future generations in Kentlands can live with over the long term, then maybe we should hold off and save our pennies until we do have the needed funds.

-- Mary N. Macdonald (, July 26, 2002.

This whole discussion is getting pretty serious. About 4 years ago, Dee and I were in Zurich for a couple of days. Scattered through the city were near-full-size cows in various cow-like poses and in various colors. We were delighted to come across them, as each was unexpected. For us, they conveyed a sense of whimsey and fun. I don't remember our hotel there, but I remember the cows with affection. I thought that was what the Party Animals were all about.

For serious art from a serious artist, we've got our acantha leaves.

-- Joel Aronson (, July 26, 2002.

I think we need all the art we can get. If someone (the "artist") delcares something to be "art," there's probably a place for it somewhere. Maybe not on public display in a community, but somewhere.

But these things ARE art. The decorated polyester animals concept has taken root in so many cities in the U.S., I'm not sure I could name them all. But every time I've seen them in the context of a community, I've been uplifted. Not every piece is "museum quality," (whatever that is -- have you ever been to the museum in Scranton, PA?) but taken as a body of work, it they establish a spirit that's uplifting nonetheless. And they're not bronzes, intended to, and capable of lasting for centuries.

I'm not surprised that public art gets vandalized (and somehow I'm even less surprised that it happens in DC). We've had public facilities vandalized here in Kentlands. It's not nice, and it's not fun, and it's not fair. But to not take the risk is not to display and encounter art, period.

It's very possible that keeping the two pieces together will reduce any tendency our budding vandals might have to deface the works on some partisan basis. Every Party Animal needs a friend. In fact, wasn't that premise the basis of the Spuds MacKenzie ad campaign?

I say, go for it. Personally, I'd be proud to display one (either one -- I vote independent!) in my back yard. By the way, thanks and congratulations to all who worked to wangle this opportunity.

-- David Fetzer (, July 26, 2002.

I would agree that this discussion, like many Kentlands forum discussions, seems to be getting a little too serious. I thought the purpose of art, any art, was to make people feel something. If the animals make people feel funny or smile, even if it is just for a short time, than what the heck.

Maybe the lesson we could pull from the discussions about Toronto and DC is that too much of a good thing can get old. If that's the case, maybe we should place the party animals someplace where people won't have to run through them every single day (a la outside their office door or on the main lawn). Maybe we place them somewhere that we will just see them once in while and get a little chuckle as we walk by.

Joe Paiva

-- Joe Paiva (, July 26, 2002.

Hey, David. Why settle for the Republicans' or Democrats' mascot in your back yard, when you could have an Independent Party Animal? It is number 35 in the gallery of photos on the Party Animals Web site. Take a peek. Now THAT'S a "museum quality" piece!

Seriously, David, Joel and Joe, personal tastes in art aside, are you guys saying that any donkey and any elephant from the Party Animals collection will do? Do you not see any problem with something like the "bandit elephant" and "donkey for all people" combination shown in this month's Town Crier? Do you think it is okay for our Board or one of its committees to endorse specific political positions? There are probably plenty of Party Animals that do not make political statements from which to choose. Why couldn't the selection of an elephant and donkey for Kentlands be limited to that pool?

As for this discussion getting serious, good. The beasties may be whimsical, but some of the issues involved are not. If Kentlands purchases two of the creatures they WILL represent our community. There is no getting around that. We will not be a city with many and varied Party Animals scattered throughout, to come upon unexpectedly and to cancel one another out, or, at least, provide balance. We will be a small community, an HOA, with just two statues that we purchased and placed here.

-- Mary N. Macdonald (, July 26, 2002.

Why would we want someone else's "art" when we have our own artists in residence at the Art Barn? If we're going to spend money, let's have the one of the resident artists create something.

Support your local artist!

-- Rick Marvin (, July 26, 2002.

another obtw: It turns out that the Kentlands Code Architectural Standards also specifically prohibits "synthetic fauna" [e.g. plastic animals] facing a street or sidewalk or visibly obstrusive from nearby streets. There is no exception for museum quality synthetic fauna.

-- Rick Marvin (, July 26, 2002.

We support the idea of obtaining a couple of party animals for the Kentlands. We haven't polled our neighbors, but we'd love to see one in our park at the corner of Little Quarry and Thaxton. (We'd prefer the donkey!)

-- Sue and Ken Vest (, July 27, 2002.

Hmmm. "Synthetic fauna" could be our Founding Fathers and Mothers' legalese to identify and discriminate against the much maligned and misunderstood pink plastic flamingo. By the way, I saw several pink flamigoes highlighted in a wonderful exhibit on kitsch that was mounted about three years ago at the Museum of Contemporary Art, which overlooks the Pacific at the Scripps House in La Jolla, CA. I would cite this as an example of a museum-quality pink flamigo.

-- David Fetzer (, July 27, 2002.

Up until this point, I have been amenable to the idea of the community's purchasing an elephant and a donkey from the Party Animals collection as mascots for the two major parties (even though I am a member of neither), as long as the creatures chosen did not make political statements. Aesthetically, they are not my cup-of- tea, but I envisioned the two animals placed together in a highly used location and was thinking of them as something that might inspire residents, and visitors, to vote and otherwise participate in civic life. That is the only reason I could see for Kentlands' purchasing two of these creatures. I was thinking it would nice if the animals were decorated in a way that would also make them appealing to children, beyond the fact of their being an elephant and a donkey, i.e., kind of, political mascots, but with a storybook quality.

I am on the verge of voting a definite "no" for these things. It seems like they might be more trouble than they are worth. I think that the idea of separating the two creatures is divisive. The idea of putting either in a wooded area that is difficult to see into from the street and which few, if any, people frequent, makes no sense at all. In all my years living here I have seen only one person in the specific suggested wooded area for housing a donkey (the corner of Thaxton and Little Quarry), and he was a vagrant.

If people do not appreciate these statues enough to want to display them where they can be seen and enjoyed by the greatest number of people, then maybe they are not the right choice for ornamenting Kentlands. If the statues are SO objectionable that people feel they should be hidden in wooded areas—where almost no one will see them, and where they will be more vulnerable to vandalism—then why are we even talking about spending our precious, limited funds on them?

All things considered, I vote "no" on the Party Animals.

-- Mary N. Macdonald (, July 27, 2002.

First off --can we all lighten up a little? As for the vagrants in our corner park --it was probably Ken-- he doesn't always shave on the weekends. We seem to recall that these party animals are displayed downtown both as pairs and individually. We think it should be something that you come upon unexpectedly, something colorful, whimsical and surprising. When visiting Chicago, we really enjoyed the cows. These critters are not a political statement or meant to encourage people to vote. They're just for fun.

-- Sue and Ken Vest (, July 27, 2002.

As unpleasant as it may be to hear, the man I saw was a vagrant, tattered clothes and all. This was early one afternoon on a weekday.

-- Mary N. Macdonald (, July 27, 2002.

I was starting to enjoy this debate about what is timeless art, but I agree that we might be getting too serious. I'll try to stick to a role of addressing some specific questions that people have. (Sorry Mary that I was not able to do this sooner.) I am assuming that it is OK with everyone to provide a written copy of all these comments to the Board of Trustees so that they can see what people are thinking. If not, please let me know. Or else, we could provide a "redacted" version ( I guess that that's legaleese for a version that blots out our names and maintains privacy.)

But first, I want to say that Joel Aronson's last comment expressed better than I can what has motivated our Committee to take on this project. We too enjoyed the "whimsey and fun" of these animal figures. We have enjoyed versions of them in other cities, and it's interesting to see DC's approach that acknowledges this area as the center of two-party democratic government by its choice of donkeys and elephants

To answer one of Mary's questions: What we plan to do is narrow down our selection to the best 10 or 15 of each type of animal, and then get the Board of Trustees to agree to this list (assuming they first vote to go ahead with the project). Thus when the DC Commission begins its auction, we will have some flexibilty during the bidding process. Obviously, if the bidding takes us above our agreed upon spending limit, we will not be able to purchase anything.

In regard to another of Mary's concerns: the majority of the statues do not make political statements. My interpretation of the two pictured in the Town Crier is that they are more a statement of patriotism in the context of Sept. 11. The elephant, in my view, is not a prisoner or robber, but is decorated in a stars and stripes theme in the spirit of a heroic comic book character (isn't there a Captain America comic book series that originated during wartime? can someone help me on this?). Mary, this pair of statues is at 21st St and M St., NW if you are ever in that area.

What I will try to do in the next month is obtain profiles on some of the artists, the themes of their works, and also try to figure out how to post some picture files in this forum.

Another issue: we did talk about using local artists, but it seemed like the work involved in a selection and commission process would take more hours that we have to devote to the project. The Party Animals provides a wide selection of finished work by serious artists who have already gone through a competitive process.

The "museum quality" criterion that Richard Marvin points out seems to me to be wide open to disagreement. There are, for example, some colorful sculptures in the National Gallery of Art's Sculpture Garden that would provoke the same kind of opposition that some in this forum have voiced. In the end, it will be the Board that will have to apply such criteria in its decision on this project.

Some last thoughts. I want to get the opinions of the remaining three Kentlands residents (Nora Caplan has already commented) who serve on the City's Arts in Public Places Committee. Also, FYI, the City is planning some kind of wooden tree sculpture (the oak tree as symbol of Gaithersburg) that will be placed in the vicinity of the Arts Barn. Certain artists will paint fiberglass acorns to hang on the tree. I'm told that if this is well received, more will be created for other parts of the City.

Please let me know if I have overlooked addressing anything of concern.


-- Bob Mauri (, July 27, 2002.

The threads of this discussion have been sometimes interesting, sometimes entertaining, and often disturbing. Let’s be realistic and blunt. The donkey and the elephant are the symbols of this country’s two major political parties. No matter how you cut it, that political symbolism does not go away. The artists who decorated many of these figures chose to use these party symbols to make effective political statements, some flattering, some not. This is fine in Washington, D.C., where it is sometimes entertaining, but not in my neighborhood.

What I find particularly aggravating is the fact that many, perhaps not all, of these statues are gaudy artistic monstrosities that will stand out like sore thumbs in any neighborhood that is unfortunate enough to receive them. Over the years, residents of Kentlands have taken a great deal of pride in the natural beauty and distribution of its open spaces throughout the community. These statues just do not fit that vision.

Art in the public realm reflects on the attitudes and tastes of the owners of that space. That is why the choice of what will be placed there must be done with great care and deliberation. This is pop- art and like most such artifacts faddish and transitory. It is also a quick fix. Is this really what you want for this community? Is this really how you want this community to be viewed by outside visitors?

-- Victor W. Macdonald (, July 27, 2002.

Bob, thanks for answering my question. Thanks, too, for acknowledging that some of the statues make political statements. It is still not clear what, if any, kinds of measures would be taken to avoid purchasing any of the more political of the Party Animals, but I would urge the Committee to take this matter to heart in making any selections.

I guess we will have to agree to disagree about the elephant pictured in the Town Crier, though. He will always look like a bandit to me. It's the horizontal stripes he's wearing, in combination with that mask.

I have found the discussion about the Party Animals being "whimsical" and "fun" interesting. I think that some of them are whimsical and creative, but others are actually quite heavy- handed. And do we need bright, gaudy colors for "fun" and "whimsy"? Maybe. Maybe not. All I know is that the only time I approach one of the Party Animals up close is when I have my baby niece in tow and am taking her over to see them. But that plain old bear at the Rio Center -- now, her I go over and cuddle up to and pet and talk to. Unadorned as she is, she is truly whimsical, sitting there in the midst of all the human passers-by.

-- Mary N. Macdonald (, July 27, 2002.

I worked on Lyndon Johnson's staff in the White House on great society legislation and was appointed Asst. Postmaster General by Richard Nixon because I had chaired the quadriad that had proposed the public corporation concept for the US Postal Service. He also asked me to run VISTA but I had a near fatal accident and had to leave government.

I mention that only to indicate that I have been, in my day, very political with both parties. I feel, however, that the often irrational emotions generated by political partisanship and the probable transferrence of those emotions to the benign statues makes the addition of the statues less than a smart idea or a reasonable value for Kentlands's homeowners, even if they were FREE!

Ron Lee

-- Ron Lee (, July 29, 2002.

Bob, I think there may be some confusion over "museum quality" and the prohibition of "synthetic fauna". The "museum quality" exeption does not apply to "synthetic fauna".

In the context of "synthetic fauna" the prohibition against visible, public display is absolute. In other words there is no way to legally do what the Arts and Ornamentation committee is suggesting.

If we ignore the prohibition now, anyone who has any disagreement with a provision of the KCA documents would be able to use this as an equitable precedent to ignore the documents.

-- Rick Marvin (, July 29, 2002.

Rick: we need a clarification about the issue you raise concerning the prohibition of "synthetic fauna." I am assuming that it is meant to apply to titleholders and their lots, but not to any objects, etc. that are placed in Kentlands' common areas. I will consult with Dick Arkin about this point.

Also, to respond to Vic's comments: art objects can provoke strong reactions in people. Obviously, our Committee does not think that we are bringing "monstrosities" into the community, but rather trying to carry out our charge to propose projects that would "adorn" some of our common areas with objects that would make people want to gather there or take pleasure from the passing view. Thus, we will just have to agree to disagree.

Also, there was concern about what outsiders might think of our community if we adopted such art for one of our public spaces. In response, that is not a standard that our Committee has used in trying to come up with ideas. Rather, we are more motivated by what I just mentioned above, and by whether our ideas are widely accepted by residents, approved by Kentlands' elected representatives, and in accord with any relevant City of Gaithersburg rules and regulations.

-- Bob Mauri (, July 30, 2002.

FYI, anyone who is interested, there is an article about the Party Animals in the August issue of WETA Magazine that includes some colorful photographs of some of the creatures. According to the article, the Party Animals are part of a "worldwide animals-as-art rage," and the elephant and donkey pair were the obvious choice for "a highly partisan company town like Washington, home to a gazillion lawyers, litigators and beltway bandits." The article explains: "Obviously, there was no need to elevate some other life form when we had so perfect a pair of politically charged and readily identifiable symbols as the burro and the pachyderm." A WETA production on the Party Animals project featuring a display of the statues will be aired on August 7, at 8:00 p.m. and, again, at 9:30 p.m.

-- Mary N. Macdonald (, July 30, 2002.

Bob, a recent article, "the Party Bunch," in the Washington Post (July 3, 2002) reports that "many of the [Party Animal] statues came cracked and imperfect from the company." The vice chairman of the project for the arts commission is quoted as saying, "‘We have animals that are blistering in the sun . . . . We have one animal that the leg is practically exploded. There's all kinds of problems.'" The arts commission was apparently working with the manufacturer of the statues to refurbish them, but it has only been 4 weeks since the article was published. I am wondering what, if any, kinds of assurances we would have that the quality of any statues we might purchase would be up-to-par. (For anyone interested, I obtained the article in question from the Party Animals Web site.)

-- Mary N. Macdonald (, July 31, 2002.

Hi Bob,

Not having read all the replies to this thread, I hope that I'm not repeating anything that anyone else has already contributed. I think that the Pary Animals are kinda cute, but I really don't see where they would fit into our community. I think that politics, however cute and whimsical, is best left downtown. Just my $.02 worth...

-- Kim Skimmons (, August 01, 2002.

I think they are sort of like pink Flamingoes. I would vote no.

-- Andy Anderjaska (, August 04, 2002.

Now that is back up and running, I was going to respond to a few of the recent questions that have been raised. However, after Mr. Anderjaska's comment about "pink flamingoes," it is difficult to remain restrained and tactful, as I've tried to do throughout this entire discussion. It's OK if you don't like these sculptures, but let's at least recognize that they are the works of serious artists who have responded with a lot of enthusiasm to the opportunity to create something to be seen by thousands of people on the streets of our Capitol. (I hope that some of us saw the Party Animals movie on Channel 26 last Wednesday, which did a good job in capturing the spirit of the whole Party Animals project.) It would be interesting to know if Mr. Anderjaska has been downtown to experience these works close up. Calling them pink flamingoes is a cheap shot.

Perhaps he is picking up on Richard Marvin's comment about "plastic flamingoes." Richard, I respect all the outside work you do for worthy organizations in the County, and the all the hard work you put in last fall in running as a candidate for the Gaithersburg City Council. But it seems to me that if you still aspire to elected office, you should be exhibiting the leadership skills of a good politician, such as the ability to compromise and to seek common ground with folks that you might not agree with. I don't see such qualities evident in your flamingo remarks and the reference to "synthetic fauna." Some of you in this forum have expressed a strong dislike for the Party Animals -and that is perfectly fair-but, again, let us at least agree that these are works created by serious and committed artists.

-- Bob Mauri (, August 12, 2002.

Bob, Can we keep personal attacks out of the discussion? Your original statement that headed this topic was "The Board wants the Committee to obtain public comments [ …] whether such sculptures are a good idea." and you also stated that "We are open to all sorts of ideas, as long as they fit within the budget that the Board has provided." I understand your disappointment that everyone does not agree that this is a good idea and maybe as a compromise we should change the emphasis of this discussion to look for some other form of animal representation or other idea.

I think it would help to reread the previous posts. There have been a number of suggestions and compromises offered, and issues raised, that have been totally ignored by the party animal advocates.

I have gone through the posts myself looking for any compromises offered by the advocates, but with the exception of the problems with vandalism I don't see any attempt by party animal advocates to compromise or solve problems. Perhaps you could point them out for me? The impression I have received is that some advocates are going to try to ram this through, no matter what anyone else thinks or what the legal requirements are.

Let me summarize some of the compromises offered and issues raised.

1. Commission the Kentlands Art Barn resident artists to create Kentlands own art: Use Kentlands money in Kentlands. What is the budget the board has allocated and what can the resident artists offer for that amount?

2. "A Canada goose has all kinds of possibilities. So do large models of Gaithersburg historic buildings e.g., the Mansion, Casey Barn, the Cider Barrel."

3. "How about a very simple kinetic sculpture, [...]one that plays with a few simple shapes, light and shadows?"

4. Use some other animal besides party animals, e.g. cows.

5. Let the registered voters in Kentlands make the selection of the party animal for their respective party.

6. How are you going to deal with advocates who intend to use the animals to make a partisan political statement? ("Perhaps the elephant could be placed face down on the lawn with a hunter standing over it.")

7. The Kentlands Architectural code specifically prohibits synthetic fauna (The exact term used in the code is "synthetic flora and fauna". This is not my invention)

8. What does the Architectural code mean by "museum quality"? Are we going to be setting a precedent that will allow anyone to claim a brightly painted garden gnome or plastic flamingo is museum quality? According to some posts here pink flamingos are museum quality.

Expecting people to agree that anything anyone labels as "art" is perhaps unrealistic. There are many opinions on what art is and what art is not. I could offer several examples of "art" that would undoubtedly provoke a massive flame war.

I think your original questions were good questions and, that to our detriment, this discussion has become fixed on the party animals. We need to give up this fixation and examine some of the alternatives that have been offered.


-- Rick Marvin (, August 12, 2002.

Bob, what do you mean by a "serious artist"? I had assumed, prior to seeing the WETA production, that all of the Party Animals were decorated by professional artists. I was surprised to learn that this is not the case. At least several of the animals were done by children! And one of the individuals who decorated one of the animals identified herself NOT as an artist, but as "a lobbyist and an attorney." Since the relevant information was not provided on the show, it was impossible to tell to what extent the Party Animals are the work of professional artists.

At any rate, the show, plus seeing Party Animal memorabilia (crass commercialization and strong identification with D.C.) in the downtown Hecht's, has only reinforced my feeling that these creatures would not be the best choice for our community. Even hearing the artist who did my "elephant bandit" explain that her design was, in fact, motivated by the events of September 11 and had nothing to do with partisan politics did not change how I feel. The reality remains that what we are talking about are, essentially, decorated political party mascots. The idea of ornamenting our community with them has seemed questionable, at best, from the beginning.

I agree with Rick Marvin that it would be a good idea if the discussion were to be less fixated on the Party Animals. However, that will only happen when we begin to have some real exchange of ideas for ornamenting our community; in other words, when we begin to actually communicate with one another. Meanwhile, in keeping with the spirit of this very frustrating discussion, so far, and since "Goose Kitsch" was summarily dismissed as a possibility early on, might I suggest "Koala Kitsch" as an alternative to the Party Animals? (For anyone interested, information on "Koala Kitsch" will be found at: eut/index.html).

-- Mary N. Macdonald (, August 12, 2002.

Those are a lot of issues and questions to respond to! Please allow me to do it in several sittings. First, I did previously address Richard's suggestion about commissioning a local artist. We as a committee figured that we did not have the time for soliciting and judging a number of entries in a competition. Also, the immediate proposal for the Board to vote on is the Party Animals proposal,and that is what we should be focusing on. That is not to say that all the other suggestions mentioned here have been dismissed; they are good alternatives and should be considered if the Party Animals proposal is voted down.

I had an email exchange with Dick Arkin about the plastic fauna issue. From what I gather from his response, there is no unequivocal prohibition on such items sited in Kentlands' common areas (as distinct from residential lots). The Party Animals, however, would apparently require some kind of review and approval by the Town Architect. Since Richard has also pointed out that there is a synthethic flora prohibition, remember that I mentioned that the City plans to put some kind of wooden oak tree sculpture near the Arts Barn. The tree will have painted fiberglass (but apolitical) acorns hanging from the branches. Does that mean we have a potential conflict with the City? I will try to more clarifcation on what exactly is prohibited.

On the serious artist issue, yes there are some school groups who did animals. On the other side of the spectrum, there is also Sam Gilliam, a renowed artist of the Washington Color School (we could never afford to bid on his animal!) and Larry Rivers, one of the foremost Pop artists (sorry Vic) in the country. His animal was supposed to be placed in the Corcoran Museum, but he is sick and will not be able to finish it, according to Samantha who helps run the Party Animals project. In between is a mass of serious artists who struggle to do this for a living. For example, Margaret Finch, who did the patriot elephant, has been a local air brush artist for more than 20 years and has had numerous exhibitions of her work. Lola Lombard, the woman who did the watermelon elephant, has a website that presents her paintings and other artistic endeavors. There was a nice segment on Lola in the Party Animals movie the other night. By sheer chance, she answered the phone when I called WETA to make a contribution, and we had an interesting chat.

To be continued......

-- Bob Mauri (, August 13, 2002.

Is the City planning to put their wooden oak tree sculpture on property owned by them or by us? I would imagine that, if they plan to put it on City property, there would be no conflict with us.

Also, Bob, my objections to the Party Animals aside, I do not understand how we could have a double standard when it comes to fiberglass artworks, i.e., such works may okay in Kentlands' common areas, but not in residential lots. If we have a process whereby the Town Architect can approve such works for our common areas, then why does the same not apply to residential lots? As an example, does the Party Animal done by Gilliam that we (as a community) cannot afford become something less if an individual resident wants to purchase it and display it on his or her private property?

-- Mary N. Macdonald (, August 14, 2002.

Bob, in different ways, a number of people in this forum have questioned the appropriateness of the Party Animals for Kentlands. This is a valid and important concern that deserves to be addressed. The Party Animals are about Washington D.C. and bipartisan politics (choice of two political party symbols only). So, how does that fit in our community?

There may not, as you say, need to be an "overt connection" between Kentlands and any artwork that we acquire. But there is a connection between a community and its public artworks. The artworks say something about the community, not only to outsiders, but to residents, as well. The Kent Bloomer piece near the pavilion that you mentioned may not be overtly connected with Kentlands, but it does represent something we aspire to, and that is "community," i.e., chairs facing one another in a circle.

Why are we considering adopting another community's very strong (and commercial) expression of its identity, rather than developing our own style, consistent with our values and ambitions for the future?

-- Mary N. Macdonald (, August 15, 2002.

It was a joke for goodness sake! Not only do we enjoy seeing the donkeys and elephants in DC without even one elephant being face down, we enjoyed the Mr. Potato Heads in Rhode Island. I'm sure we'd love the cows wherever they were! Personally, I don't view them as a serious political statement. They just make me smile when I see them. I think they're cute. That's all.

-- Lauren Paiva (, August 15, 2002.

I am not sure if you are responding to Rick Marvin's last posting or mine, Lauren. I took your family's comment as a joke, which is why I responded in kind and said that I felt that the elephant and donkey should both be placed face down. Although we do not know one another, I thought we were engaging in banter at that point.

But there really are some issues that need to be addressed here, and the fundamentally political nature of the Party Animals is one of them. It is like the proverbial pink elephant (or should I say pink donkey) in the room. These statues are political mascots, first and foremost. That makes them different from the creatures used in other cities' animals-as-art projects, e.g., Chicago's cows, Baltimore's and New Orlean's fish, Orlando's lizards, and, Miami's, yes, flamingos.

There is a pertinent article in "The American Enterprise Online" that deals with the matter of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities' choosing the donkey and elephant (characterized in the article as "the two symbols that reflect what defines the capital best—its political culture") for a public arts project. To access the article, which is by Sabrina Savodnik, go to: One of many relevant points Savodnik makes is: "Democrats and Republicans dominate the public discourse. Certainly, the founding fathers, who recognized competition in the political sphere, did not accept the idea of the party. Perhaps they were right, and perhaps a strictly bi-partisan system is not the culture the city ought to reflect in a public display of art."

She is talking about D.C., of course. But what I want to know is why we need to reflect that bipartisan political culture in our public art in Kentlands.

-- Mary N. Macdonald (, August 15, 2002.

Bob, It sounds like the A&O committee has a real opportunity to involve the community in commissioning a local artist. Rather than taking on the burden of judging a number of entries the A&OC could open the judging to the community. Post the entries on the bulletin boards and in the rec center, put them in the newspaper, ask the city to exhit them in the Art Barn. Ask the Kentlands to vote on them. At the annual meeting coming up cut off the voting and announce the winner!

It was interesting to note that some of the party animals were decorated by kids. I've always thought that some refrigerator art was better than modern "art". Maybe we could make the local kids the local artist. Define a shape and a motif for them to decorate it. (maybe something besides a refrigerator).

You might also ask Dick Arkin to look at the Articles of Incoporation of Kentlands Citizens Assembly, Inc., article IV "Powers and Purposes" which refers to "...architectural control of the Lots, Living Units, and Community Property...". That's what the Architectural Standards are for.

or the Kentlands Community Charter, article VI, section 6-102; "The Assembly shall maintain and keep in good order all Community Property in accordance with the Community Codes."

-- Rick Marvin (, August 15, 2002.

Mary, I am falling way behind in answering all your questions.

There is another way of looking at this. The designs of the vast majority of the Party Animals (PA) contain no political message. Samantha from the PA staff told me that most of the artists saw the animals as a three dimensional canvas for executing their designs, not as politcal symbols. Many of the artists favored being assigned to an elephant rather than a donkey, not because artists tend to be Republicans, but rather that the more massive elephant figure gave them more surface to work with.

Too bad the PA people didn't choose an eagle instead.(Then we would only have to buy one sculpture instead of two!) It is also a national symbol, and it appears that feathered creatures (including Canada geese)are more acceptable in Kentlands.

You're right that the some of the Founding Fathers thought that parties would ruin the purity of their new constitution, but it did not take long after Washington was in office for major parties to take root. The current two party system goes back to at least Lincoln's time.(Remember that Lincoln was the evil "black Republican" in the eyes of the South.)

If the PA encourage someone (especially our kids) to reflect a bit on American history (for example, that we have had a stable two party democratic government--with all its strengths and weakness--for about the last 150 years), what is so objectional about that?

To be continued...

-- Bob Mauri (, August 15, 2002.

Bob, forgive me for saying this, but your argument that decorated Republican and Democratic party mascots might encourage some people to "reflect a bit on American history" is as weak as my suggestion (posted on July 27) that they might "inspire" people "to vote and otherwise participate in civic life." At the time I said that, I was trying to find some ground for compromise with those who favor purchasing two of the creatures. But it was a real stretch, and it was Sue and Ken Vest's response that "These critters are not a political statement or meant to encourage people to vote" that made me begin to face the pink elephant/donkey head-on.

The Party Animals display is being billed as the largest public art exhibit in D.C.'s history. For such an exhibit to be planned and executed around the theme "Party Animals" and utilize statues of the two major political parties' mascots only IS a political statement, and the message is an exclusionary one. What is so objectionable about this is that it is fundamentally unfair.

I would like to think that some of the artists made purposeful statements with their animals about this lack of fairness, that they intentionally gave voice to some of those who would have been otherwise excluded from this "whimsical," "political, but not political" affair. For instance, I would like to think that the sunflowers on "Helianthus Elephanthus" are a nod to the Green Party (the sunflower is its symbol) and/or those folks among us who vote independently (each flower is unique). I would like to think that "Green Party Animal," who looks more like some mythical creature than a donkey, represents exactly what its name suggests. But I must say, seeing artistic expressions of multicultural correctness and "inclusion of all" in the context of this exhibit, where the choice of "canvas" was either a Republican or Democratic mascot, gives a new and disturbing meaning to the term "politically correct." The ironic reality is that in this largest public art exhibit in the history of Washington, D.C., those who do not tow one of the two "correct" political party lines, are second-class citizens. They are present only by chance, or by the grace of artists who intentionally included them in their designs.

No, Bob, when I look at these decorated party mascots, I do not think of American history. I think only of partisan politics. And why not? In every photograph I have seen of Laura Bush and Mayor Williams with these things, she is standing next to the elephant, and he is standing next to the donkey. That is, perhaps, the way it should be. But it also tells me that, despite all the hype about these "fun" creatures, partisan politics trumps whimsy.

Again, Bob, I do not see why we need to reflect the bipartisan political culture of D.C. in Kentland's public artworks. Even in D.C., billed as "Home of the Party Animals," the exhibit will be coming to an end when the animals are auctioned off. I assume that any we might purchase would be with us in our public realm for a good long time.

-- Mary N. Macdonald (, August 16, 2002.

I am still falling behind in addressing some of the issues raised here, especially by Mary and Richard!

In regard to objections to the negative political symbolism of donkeys and elephants, we do have other options if indeed there is general agreement to have this type of sculpture in our community. The company in Nebraska that has manufactured and supplied fiberglass animals to many of the cities that have done such public art exhibits could sell us an animal to decorate (for about $1,500). But could we ever agree on what species to choose? A horse; a pig; a deer; a bison? The company makes all of these and more.

We would have to have a competition, etc., so our committee, consisting of only three people, could not do this alone. We would need help. Perhaps we could get the City to let us use a bay in the Firehouse (just like the PA artists used the boarded-up Woodies Dept. store), thereby semi-liberating that dormant building for beneficial public use.

The other idea is to try to acquire a finished work that has previously been purchased after the close of another city's public art exhibit. I'm not sure at this point on where to look, but I am certain that it could be done. Last year's fish from the Baltimore exhibit are very interesting, for interest. But I wonder--seriously--if someone would point out that the fish was the symbol of early Christians (and you still see little metal fish on the back of some Christians' cars), and thus non-Christians might take some offense.

But all of the above may be moot. I heard on the radio this morning that three Party Animals were attacked last night and at least one was totally destroyed! As soon as I see a news article on this, I will provide more details. As I said early on in this forum, vandalism was on the top of my own list of concerns. There is some degree of risk that this could happen in Kentlands; how would we try to minimize such risk? Also, I am sure that this news will not be welcome by the Board of Trustees.

Finally, I read in the current Town Crier that our committee will be merged with the facilities committee and the capital improvements committee, based on a Board decision at its last meeting. I am not aware that the Board even consulted us before its decision. In any case, the article also said that we will be given a new charge in September. Our committee needs to find out whether this decision will have an impact on our ongoing projects.

-- Bob Mauri (, August 17, 2002.

From WRC-TV news:

WASHINGTON -- The party is over for two statues that were part of a wider effort to promote the arts in the District. A spokesman for the D.C. arts commission said Friday the two animals were damaged beyond repair. Spokesman Stan Collender said other party animals have also suffered minor damage at the hands of vandals. A $5,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the culprits.

There are 200 of these statues. The donkeys and elephants represent the symbols of the two major political parties and were placed in strategic locations around the District. Most were decorated by a local artist with the help of public school students.

The latest casualty was a blue elephant that stood at 31st and R streets in Northwest. Its nose was badly smashed. Last Wednesday, a nearby resident reported seeing two young people smashing a donkey statue with a crowbar at Massachusetts Avenue and Garfield Street in Northwest. Project manager Alexandra McMaster said the piece was created by a renowned Swiss artist. Another donkey near Tenley Circle was also spray painted.

The party comes to an end for all of the animals in October. That's when an auction will be held do people to bid on the statues. Collender anticipates the animals could bring up to $20,000 each. Proceeds from the sale will go toward funding art programs in the District.

-- Bob Mauri (, August 17, 2002.

Here's an excerpt from a Washington Post article on Pop artist Larry Rivers, who died a few days ago:

One final work by Rivers is still coming to the Corcoran, according to a Rivers assistant. Levy [David Levy, Director of the Corcoran] had sent Rivers one of the Party Animals now blanketing Washington, hoping he would paint it. And Rivers and his assistants cooked up a design that the aides plan to carry forward. "We will complete it," assistant John Duyck said yesterday. "Those were Larry's last instructions. And this will be the last work to emerge from the Rivers studio."

-- Bob Mauri (, August 17, 2002.

I think Bob's idea of purchasing a fiberglass animal to decorate is great. Whether you personally like that kind of art or not, this now becomes a real community art project. An advertisement in a Party Animals' guide prepared by the Commission on the Arts and Humanities says, "Own a piece of Animal History." Similarly, in looking for information on Baltimore's "Fish Out of Water," I came across this quote from the Chair of the live auction for that project: "This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to take home a unique piece of Baltimore history. I'm looking forward to being part of this ‘fin-tastic' event" ( 20PLANS.htm). So, why not have our own mini (or micro) animal-art event and create our own history?

Why not give some of our local artists and budding artists a chance to participate in a public art project? Entries could be juried not only for a winner to decorate the statue, but also for a collection of the best, to go on exhibit. We could ask the City to exhibit the selected works in the Mansion, or, as Rick Marvin suggested (for the entries, in general), in the Arts Barn. If the entries are in a form that can be hung on the walls, maybe one of the businesses in Market Square, e.g., The Wine Harvest or Seattle's Best, would be willing to display the selected collection for a second showing. It would be fun and interesting to see the pieces in that kind of context.

The idea of a fish as the animal is not so far out. When all of this talk about the Party Animals and putting them on the Clubhouse lawn started, Baltimore's fish is precisely what came to my mind. (They are the only ones I've seen, although there are apparently a few other cities that did fish, too.) The fish seemed like a natural fit for the Clubhouse, with our three pools and all of the aquatic activities that go on there. It also seemed like the Clubhouse area might be one of the safest from the viewpoint of vandalism, because of all of the homes facing it. Hmm. Maybe O'Donnell's would be willing to display the best of fish-art entries for a second showing, or even help sponsor a fish-art event.

On the other hand, if we want something more whimsical, we could go with the pink flamingo. That would certainly be "unexpected" in a community such as ours, with its strict architectural codes and where even in children's play equipment bright colors were not allowed. The competition, in this case, could be for the most kitschy bird, to ensure the animal would meet the standards for "museum quality" suggested by David's July 27 posting. Since the flamingo's beak might to be too tempting to vandals, it could be broken off ahead of time. In fact, this would kill two birds with one stone, because it would also give us a kind of "flamingo de Milo" effect, thus satisfying the more "serious" among us. (Seriously, I could see one very kitschy flamingo, beak intact, in Kentlands' public realm—unless, of course, we really do take ourselves too seriously.)

Finally, someone suggested that the square in Old Farm where we have our Oktoberfest might be a good place for the Party Animals. I do not see this type of statuary there, but the suggestion brought to mind a bronze sculpture of an animal (something like the Rio bear) sitting at one of the chess tables, off to the side, kind of like a kibitzer for anyone who would sit next to it. Nothing that stands out too much, but something that is just quietly there.

-- Mary N. Macdonald (, August 19, 2002.

Just a final note on the Party Animals proposal. At last week's Board meeting, our committee asked the Board to withdraw the proposal. We based this action in part because, as demonstrated in the District, a handful of the statues were targets of serious vandalism, and thus our concern about the chance of this happening in Kentlands. Moreover, as shown in this forum, the proposal was controversial to the degree that the Board would most likely have not voted for its approval. Finally, we never really achieved any strong support or guidance on an appropriate site in Kentlands for the statues.

This has been a good learning experience for committee members, and we thank all those who took the time to express their opinions, whether in favor or against. Also, many thanks to Mike Berney behind the scenes who has fostered this forum on this and other subjects of value to our community.

-- Bob Mauri (, September 04, 2002.

For anyone interested in seeing some of the DC Party Animals, who also likes to ride a bike, there will be a few bike rides of about 10+ miles to tour various neighborhoods of the District, trying to log sightings of many of the Party Animals, funded by the DC Arts Councel.

The rides are scheduled for: Sept. 12 at 6:30 am starting at the Washington Harbour; Sept 19 at 6:45 am starting at the Kennedy Center; and Oct 3 at 6:45 am starting place TBD, probably near the Capitol.

-- Harvey Kaye (, September 10, 2002.

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