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WCG’s “Baby Elephant Walk” brings calligraphy to public art

The bronze statues of the nation’s capital had competition from colorfully decorated polyurethane sculptures of donkeys and elephants—including an elephant painted by WCG members—during the spring and summer of 2002. The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities selected the Washington Calligraphers Guild's entry to be among the 100 donkey and 100 elephant statues on display in every part of the city until October 2002.

The WCG entry, titled Baby Elephant Walk, takes viewers on a "walk" through many of Washington's favorite neighborhoods and sites, whose names were lettered in a variety of styles and colors by WCG members Linda Levine, Marta Legeckis (in overalls), and Pat Blair (in plaid shirt). The Guild received a $1,000 grant to produce its elephant, which the calligraphers dubbed Elizabeth.

Chief Moose gets our Elephant!

The "Party Animals" were auctioned off at the end of October to benefit grant programs for the arts and arts education in Washington. The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities (Dorothy McSweeney, chair) purchased the WCG elephant for $4,000. On Nov. 26, 2002 Mrs. McSweeney presented it to Montgomery County, MD Police Chief Charles Moose, who collects elephants, in appreciation of his work in apprehending two snipers who terrorized the region for three weeks in October. Chief Moose is pictured at the microphone in front of Police Headquarters in Rockville, MD; at right is DC Mayor Anthony Williams and behind them is Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan. The Guild members who painted the elelphant attended the ceremony: (from left) Marta Legeckis, Linda Levine and Pat Blair. The elephant will be on permanent public display in Rockville.

During the summer of 2002 Baby Elephant Walk was sponsored by Pepco, the Potomac Electric Power Company, which displayed it in front of its new headquarters at 701 Ninth Street NW (9th & G). Situated on an elevated plaza across from the MLK Library, the National Museum of American Art, Baby Elephant Walk enjoyed a lot of attention from passersby.

A baby elephant is born...and blued

Each of the "Party Animals" started as a gray plastic statue measuring 4½-by-5-feet and weighing 200 pounds. After painting the blank sculpture blue, WCG members used paper labels to aid layout and used brushes with acrylic and 1-Shot sign paints to do the lettering — particularly challenging on a large, curved surface. Finally, they sponged on "footprints" and coated the sculpture with polyurethane for protection.

The names of historic sites, landmarks and neighborhoods are lettered jauntily around the elephant's surface. The design is an interplay of various lettering styles, executed by brush in crisp tones of white, lemon yellow, red and orange acrylic paint. Interwoven in the background, in subtle tones of grey, are the names of many of the District's neighborhoods. The letters all sit atop a base of cobalt blue and violet. Plump, lime green elephant footprints connect all the sites, inviting the viewer to follow the "elephant walk" on this playful romp around the city.

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