Local Pig Sculptures Raising Literacy Awareness
PIGShibition is a community art project created to raise money for the Ozark Literacy Council, bring awareness to local literacy issues and promote local artists. Twenty-five large pig sculptures have already been painted by local artists and will be on display around Fayetteville over the next few months. The pigs are funded by sponsors, and many of them will be sold in an auction in order to raise money.
“PIGShibition is a fundraiser and a platform to create awareness around the fact that one out of five Arkansans read below a fifth-grade reading level,” said Wendy Poole, executive director of the Ozark Literary Council. “We’re selling sponsorships to the pigs and creating this group art project so we can promote this problem with literacy, and we’re also promoting the artists. The money goes toward our school and the local artists.”
The Ozark Literacy Council is the oldest one in the state. They train volunteers to be English tutors for students so that they can offer all of their literacy courses for free. Last year, 98 percent of their students advanced at least one reading level.
The council began their promotion of the PIGShibition in February. Local sculptor Mike Gutierrez created the basic pig sculptures that would be painted. Over the next couple of months, 141 design entries were submitted by more than 50 artists, creating what the council calls the “Porkfolio.” The top 25 designs were chosen to be painted on the pig sculptures.
Rae Russell was one of the artists chosen to paint a sculpture. She was commissioned by the Advertising and Promotion Commission of Fayetteville, a partner of the Ozark Literacy Council. Each artist chose a theme to base their painting around. Russell chose Fayetteville itself.
“My original thought was to create a design based on what our community is about. I named it ‘Bountiful Fayetteville’ because Fayetteville is a place that comes together for a variety of reasons. We come together for all kinds of sports and outdoor activities. We have wonderful restaurants and local produce, a strong music scene, a university that educates and promotes Fayetteville and a supportive art community,” Russell said.
In July, the pigs began to be put on display. So far, three of the pigs have been placed in different spots around Fayetteville. The pig Russell designed was placed in front of the Clinton Museum.
“(Seeing it) was a bit surreal,” Russell said. “I had no idea it was going there until several days before installation. I’m proud that it will have a permanent home in front of the museum.
“Really, I hope that it brings attention to a cause I believe in, which is educating our fellow citizens. I also hope that it brings attention to the artists in our community.”
There are many ways that the community can be involved with this project. Volunteering at events, liking PIGShibition on Facebook, following them on Twitter and purchasing PIGShibition merchandise are all ways to support the fundraiser.
It is also possible to support the Ozark Literacy Council itself.
“It is so easy to get involved. OLC is a free service that relies on volunteers. They are currently looking for volunteers to teach. The training is simple and only takes three hours, and you can volunteer as little as an hour per week,” Russell said.
The last way to be involved is to come to the auction on March 14, which is called “Piggies Go to Market.”
“We will sell tickets for about $50,” Poole said. “There will be food and a band at the Town Center. The artists, sponsors and anyone else who is interested will be there, and the blue-ribbon pigs will go for auction.
“It’s really cool because people come up to me when we’re at a farmers market, and they say, ‘I wondered how long it would take for Fayetteville to get a project like this. This is fabulous.’ We have these great rich cultural artists, and we did the whole project locally. We kept every bit of the money local, and we’re really proud of that. Nobody does that. The whole community can work together to make a real community art project.”