Former Gov. Ed Rendell had a roomful of people crooning “hee haw,” before he announced 57 fiberglass donkeys are coming to town in a few weeks.
The Philadelphia 2016 Host Committee for the Democratic National Convention broke the news Tuesday that “Donkeys Around Town,” a new civic program launched by the host committee, the city’s Mural Arts Program and ArtJawn.com, would be putting life-sized fiberglass donkeys in select spots in Philly this summer.
Fifty-seven painted donkeys will represent the 50 states, five U.S. territories, Washington, D.C., and Democrats as a whole.
The idea is to build momentum in the coming weeks and months in advance of the DNC and to challenge visitors to Philadelphia, delegates and residents alike to find the donkeys through a yet-to-be-finalized scavenger hunt. Each donkey will depict iconic images of the state or territory it represents as well as the respective name, and will be painted by a local Philadelphia artist.
“You all remember the cows in Chicago, which was such a tremendous hit? Really, they energized an entire town,” said Rendell.
“When I was governor, the city of Erie did the same thing with fish. They put 44 fiberglass fish in different places around Erie. They put a map out, and every time I went to Erie, I would see the tourists with their maps out checking out all the different fish. So I thought, what a great idea to have donkeys around town, because the host committee wants us to have a great convention for the people of Philadelphia, and to feel a part of this convention. So, were going to roll out a number of events the people of Philadelphia can participate in.”
They’ll be on display from July 1 through Sept. 5 at a number of easily accessible locations from the Delaware River to the Schuylkill River, said Rendell, and it will be everybody’s jobs to find them. Some locations will be at attractions like the Kimmel Center, the Independence Beer Garden, or the Cira Center, for example.
Jane Golden, executive director and founder of the Mural Arts Program, said that 28 artists were selected from a pool of 150 who applied by invitation.
“A diverse, broad range of artists were chosen based on their age, their craft, and their stage in their careers,” she said.
“At Mural Arts, we believe really deeply that artists are among some of our most invaluable citizens. They’re willingness to tell stories, to represent people’s lives and to be change agents is totally profound, so anytime we can find opportunities to shine light on the talent that resides in this city is a good day for us.”
The Pennsylvania donkey, which boasts the state flower (the mountain laurel), the state bird (the ruffed grouse), and other state images like scenes from Amish country and the Liberty Bell, was on display at Franklin Square during a press conference Tuesday.
“The donkey represents the common folks. We’re not flashy people,” said Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Marcel Groen.
Pennsylvania’s was a prototype, and all 57 donkeys will be fabricated by a distributor in Chester. They’ll be installed at their locations on July 1, in conjunction with the kickoff of Wawa Welcome America, Philly’s annual 4th of July celebration.
Rendell said the total cost of the entire project was about $200,000, which will be shared by the host committee, the Mural Arts Program and the DNC.