After years of honing their art and design skills on huge, thematic decorations for Churchill’s post-prom parties, the Bloch family has moved into the big time.
When Byron Bloch saw a call for artists to submit design proposals for a whimsical art-in-public-places project, he immediately thought of a family collaboration.
Now that their youngest, Candice, 19, has graduated from Churchill, Byron and his wife Naomi Bloch, graduated from post-prom decorations as well, although the Bloch parents took substantially longer than their children to graduate. They participated in nine of the last 11 after-prom celebrations.
The D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities chose 200 artists from more than 700 proposals to create original sculptures from 100 donkeys and 100 elephants, the symbols of the two major political parties. Each artist received a “blank” donkey or elephant, 4.5 feet tall and 5 feet long. The 200 “party animals” will go on display around D.C. later this month, with maps available at Metro stations.
THE BLOCH FAMILY proposal was for a pair of animals, Stars-The Carousel Donkey and Stripes-The Carousel Elephant, and their completed pair is one of three sets of twins in herd.
At first, the choice of carousel animals was meant to be humorous, Byron Bloch said. “Politicians in Washington are always chasing each other around, like a Merry-Go-Round,” he said. “But once we submitted the design, we started to research. Other than fond memories of the carousel at Glen Echo, we didn’t know anything about them.”
What they discovered gave the family a sense of mission beyond poking fun at politicians.
“IN THE GOLDEN age of carousels, 1900 to 1930, there were more than 3,000 working carousels coast to coast,” Bloch said. Carousels were the country’s first motorized entertainment, beginning around 1880. Now there are fewer than 200.
Their enthusiasm for their carousel motif led them to order authentic carousel poles for Stars and Stripes, although they sculpted and painted every other part of their creatures.
Candice and Brandon, 21, both students at the University of Maryland, traveled with their parents down to the former Woodward and Lothrup building in the District, almost daily for five weeks, where most of the Party Animals were under construction. They painted some nights until 11 p.m. before hopping on the Metro to come home.
THEY FORMED BONDS with many of their fellow artists, and plan a reunion at the Potomac Community Center. Each project was helped with a $1000 grant and $200 for supplies to create the sculptures.
The oldest Bloch sibling, Andrea, 26, also traveled home to lend her expertise on faux painting to the project.
While the Blochs had hoped Stars and Stripes would be displayed together, they will be separated for display, with Stripes, the elephant, going to the Marriott Renaissance Hotel on 9th Street across from the convention center. Stars, the donkey, will move to the Farragut West Metro station at 18th and I streets N.W.
But in the fall after a summer on display, all 200 animals will be auctioned off at a public "Raucous Caucus" auction. Each of the donkey and elephant sculptures will be sold to the highest bidder, and who knows, maybe someone will reunite Stars and Stripes.
All proceeds will go directly to the DC Arts Commission grants programs and Arts Education.
For more information on the Party Animals, see www.partyanimalsdc.org.