Painted pigs to dot the summer landscape

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 156 views 

FAYETTEVILLE — With the Razorback as Arkansas’ mascot, there’s no shortage of pigs in the area. They’re everywhere you look.

This summer, pigs of the artful kind will dot the landscape in Fayetteville.

The Ozark Literacy Council has launched PIGShibition, a community art project and fundraiser similar to the popular Chicago Cows on Parade art exhibit that debuted in the windy city in 1999.

For PIGShibition, local artists will paint 25 fiberglass pigs, and area businesses will sponsor the statues to raise money for the literacy council.

Not surprisingly, the idea for PIGShibition came from someone who had experienced the phenomenon in Chicago, Ozark Literacy Council board member Tracy Beckers.

Wendy Pool, the council’s executive director, said Beckers came to her with the idea about a year and a half years ago, though the council wasn’t in a position to take on such an ambitious project at that time.

“We knew it would sell here, though, because it’s the pig,” said Poole. “Everybody that talks about it just loves the idea.”

The council is in the process of recruiting artists to paint the pigs. About 60 sketches have been submitted for consideration, many of which can be seen on the event’s Facebook page. Because response has been so positive, the deadline for submissions has been extended through the end of this month, Poole said.

At the same time, event organizers are combing the community for sponsorships, which can be had for $3,000, $6,000 or $9,000.

The public part of the fundraiser gets underway with Ella’s  PIGmalion Preview Party, slated for May 20 at Ella’s restaurant at the Inn at Carnall Hall. The unpainted pigs will be on display at the preview party, then go home with the artists for their six-week transformation into works of art. Painters whose works are selected will receive a $500 honorarium for their time and effort.

Once complete, the painted pigs will be put on “Pig Parade” at various places around Fayetteville from early July until October.

Mike Davis Gutierrez, a local sculptor, is in the process of creating the mold for two types of pig sculptures, which will stand about 4 to 5 feet tall.

Even by using a local sculptor and cutting corners when possible, the literacy council is making a large investment on the front end of the fundraiser. Poole admits it makes her nervous, but she’s confident the council will finish in the black.

More than a fundraiser, she sees the event as a way to bring awareness for literacy and local art.

“Everything we’re doing for this project is about promoting literacy and promoting local artists, and you can’t put a price tag on that,” Poole said.

Proceeds from PIGShibition will go toward broadening night class opportunities and expanding the family literacy program.

The organization has come a long way from where it was a couple of years ago, when it was discovered that its former executive director had been dipping into the council’s coffers. He was ultimately convicted of forgery in 2009 and has since left the area.

“We had to prove ourselves to the community that we had changed,” explains Poole. “We have new board members, and I’m a new director. We have so many new changes, and we’ve reached out to the community with apologies and proof of our changes. I feel like we have been forgiven.”

Poole sees the PIGShibition event as giving the organization a fresh start.

“I like to think of us as having a mascot that’s a phoenix. We could have died, but we are still working strong with the same mission that we had when we were founded 48 years ago,” she said.