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Annapolis Chicken Sculptures Have People Clucking

The Capital

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) -- Love `em. Hate `em.  Just don't fry `em.

The Annapolis chicken sculptures have raised the pecking order of public art in the city.

"I've heard a lot of negative things, like why are they there? What are they for? They don't need a purpose, they're unique and bring character to Annapolis," said Erica Rasmussen, 19, of Arnold.

Her friend, Paige Niederstadt. 16, of Severna Park, had a more succinct assessment: "They're cool."

Paige snapped Erica's picture next to the glittery sculpture, "Pablo Chicaso," outside Maryland Hall before both headed into the arts center.

If people don't stop for a photo, they at least take notice of the birds, which number 17 along West Street's arts district.

How could you resist when there are 6-foot chicken versions of a cyborg, a firefighter and the Mona Lisa?

The brood, which started surfacing late last summer, was an artsy response to legislation allowing real chickens in backyards. Other cities have had art cows and art pigs, so why not art chickens?

But many people don't get the connection between Annapolis and chickens.

"At first, I didn't get it, either," said Jody Danek, who, along with restaurant partner Gavin Buckley and April Nyman of the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County, rule the roost when it comes to the sculptures.

The public art campaign is called "Hatching the Arts."

"It's OK people don't get it, because it's about the art and branding the street," Danek said. "The more the merrier."
And there will be more, with four others planned by the end of summer. Two could come even sooner, at the Stanton Community Center and at the townhomes in front of Maryland Hall.

Hopefully, these chickens will be safe from vandals who've damaged many of the birds. The problem has literally reached a tipping point, because two of the artists are trying to identify the culprits and press charges.

The sculptures are made of fiberglass and cost $1,000 each. After sponsors foot the bill, they're given to artists to decorate.

The arts council screens the various proposals. Many of the artists are local, and some schools also participated.

"Pablo Chicaso," for example, is by students from Bates Middle School, and the chicken currently raising the most questions is by students from the former Chesapeake Academy.

The blue bird has clay figures climbing all over it, but it's not readily who or what they represent. There's no plaque, so there's title to go by, either.

People have guessed the figures were soldiers, or that the sculpture is some kind of societal or political commentary. But it's nothing more than kids scampering on a chicken, according to the school. The sculpture is called "Children at Play."

Cheryl Hadrych, a former city resident who lives in Buffalo, didn't know and didn't care. She was back in town visiting.

"The chickens were the first thing that caught my eye," she said. "I think of Annapolis and I think of sailing, history, or the Naval Academy. I don't think of chickens. But I like the idea of arts hatching."

The fate of the sculptures is undecided.

The plan was the auction them off after a year or two to raise money for the arts, but there's been talk of making them permanent.

Mayor Josh Cohen is a big fan of the chickens. "I'm happy to allow them to be displayed indefinitely," he said. "They're an attraction."

Each sculpture is supposed to have a plaque bearing the artist's name, the sponsor, and the title of the work, but right now, there are few of the markers.

Part of the problem is vandalism. Several have had to be removed and taken for repairs, so the flock is in flux.

One of the most frequently damaged is the first chicken sculpture, by Jimi "HaHa" Davies and Jeff Huntington. Located in the parking lot of 7-Eleven, it now has "Please Do Not Destroy" written on its underbelly in many languages. Davies finds nothing funny about the vandalism. At first, he thought weekend drunks trying to ride the chickens were responsible.

But when the trouble began on weekdays, he started to think it was more malicious. Each chicken and stand weighs about 100 pounds, so it takes some effort to knock them over. "We finally get something cool going on and there's somebody to ruin it," Davies said. "They've pretty much messed up every single one."

He's working with city fire Lt. Stan Newquist, to catch those involved.

Newquist has filed two police reports about damage to his sculpture, which is cloaked in fire gear and dubbed "Spot the Firehouse Dalmat-hen." Last week, he replaced and fortified his chicken's tail.

"People spend a lot of time and money on these things," Newquist said. "They're for everybody to enjoy."

Not to worry, because most get the out-of-the-coop concept.

"It's always nice to have outdoor art," said John Sorensen, as he walked by several of the sculptures, "especially when it has a sense of humor."
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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