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Get in a Boat! And Why you should put a wig on it

The Push-me Pull-me bike in the Art Bike Parade ridden by the author and her husband
(wearing beard and wig, respectively)
Did you see the Portlandia skit "Put a bird on it?" Poking fun at the crafters among us, put a bird on it and call it art.

I say put a wig on it and call it public art.

Wigs are fun hats. They make a thing seem so much wackier. Run across a group of folks doing something in wigs and your day is made. Pictures will inevitably end up on lots of facebook news feeds, some blog posts, get shared on instagram and flikr, where they can be pinned, and also via snapchat, where they'll then implode. Maybe a video will go viral.

A wig is always worth it.
The author wearing a wig and riding the bubble-breathing Dragon Bike (which she built) in the Art Bike Parade
Costumes are not just for Halloween. Neighborhood festivals are huge opportunities for ephemeral public art. The summer solstice celebration at Olbrich Park, put together by the Friends of Starkweather Creek, features the Procession of the Species. People gather, some of them wear costumes of their own, most put on one of the many gorgeous creations in the growing collection of paper mache animals made by local artists. The animals promenade along a short course in the park and people feel happy about their neighborhood.

The author and her daughter in hand-made owl attire at the Procession of the Species

The Art Bike Parade, which I coordinated for a few years back when it kicked off the Wisconsin Bicycle Federation's Bike to Work Week, was a great excuse to wear a wig instead of a helmet. I figured if my bike was disguised as a bubble-blowing orange dragon, I was well protected. A smallish group of artists and fans of two-wheeled transport gathered and rode around the Capitol a few times during the Saturday Farmers Market. Some bikes were embellished with streamers and sparkle, others more elaborately drew attention (one grew actually living grass, another was woven into a carriage-size basket...). Regular people shopping for cheese bread pointed and were happy their morning was slightly out-of-the-ordinary.

Wing vests made by the author for the Process of the Species

The problem with the Art Bike Parade, and to a certain extent with the Procession of the Species, is that the audience seems secondary to the whole thing. You can tell that the people in costumes are having a ton of fun, but the spectators get the sense they are lucky (or unlucky) witnesses to a party they were not invited to. So they may snap a photo on their cameras and tell friends about the strange sight, but I think a lot of potential is lost.

For a parade to really be a parade, do you need spectators? [Or is the social media aftermath enough, or better, or whatever?] And do the participants need to own their role as performers? [Or is it enough to just wear a wacky wig in public?]

For the upcoming third annual Fools Flotilla, we want it all. We want people on boats and people on bridges and people on the river banks. It will be fun, and there will be wigs.

Sunday, June 9th
Boaters and wig wearers: Meet 9:30AM at Tenney Park
Spectators: Gather on the banks and bridges of the Yahara to whoop, cheer, and be amused!

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