Purpose of Program:
We wanted to bring the community together through participation in a community art project that was inspired by Chicago's 1999 art installation featuring over 300 life-size fiberglass cows and Washington D.C.'s art exhibition of 2002 entitled "Party Animals." "Party Animals" consisted of 100 elephants and 100 donkeys that had been customized in various whimsical ways by some of the region's artists.
Beginning in 2003, the Bear Fever committee involved students in securing sponsors for life-sized fiberglass bear sculptures to be installed on the streets of Boyertown, PA, to create greater community cohesiveness among the businesses, civic organizations, and individuals in our school district community in an effort to develop students' interests, skills and knowledge of careers in the arts, communications, and business arenas; to provide students with information about the community, its wealth of resources, and its support for them and their education; and to promote community spirit and cohesiveness across generations, professions and interests. Bears are Boyertown's mascot.
Bear Fever's mission is to continue the work of promoting community spirit and cohesiveness through participation in a unique public art project-the sponsorship and creation of life-sized fiberglass sculptures of our school district's mascot that will be placed around the community for its enjoyment and beautification.
The initial phase of Bear Fever ran for approximately 2 years, involving many volunteers within the school and the community. Students worked with community members, professional artists, and school personnel in promoting the project, marketing the sponsorships, creating the sculptures into works of art, publicizing the project, and developing additional community activities related to its mission throughout the duration of the project and into the future.
We are not looking for a cure for "Bear Fever"; however, the initial phase of the project involving the students of Boyertown Area School District concluded in May 2005 when the first 30+ fiberglass bears were presented to the community.
Students organized and actualized the following types of activities:
- Wrote newspaper articles
- Created posters, brochures, tickets, signs
- Designed T-shirts, mugs, prizes for sponsors and interested supporters
- Raised funds
- Created commercials for television and radio
- Spoke to civic organizations and businesses formally and informally
- Wrote grant requests
- Interviewed assorted members of the community and were interviewed by them
- Developed ideas and participated in assorted promotional activities
- Marketed sponsorships
- Researched and read about leadership and successful strategies to enhance the local community art project
- Designed and produced bases/installations for bears
We were looking to increase the understanding between and among one another throughout our community-all age groups, all professions-celebrate our diverse gifts to benefit one another and the community at large. That students and community members worked together during the entire project--from planning to completion-was one of the unique features of our program among many projects of this kind. That we embarked on a journey we've never gone before and "made things up" as we went along spoke to our innovativeness, our positive spirit and creativity, and our sense of fun. We wanted everyone to bring their talents to the "table" when and however they could, offer them with joy, and celebrate the synergy that was created through the process. We wanted to have a good time together making our community an even better place to live.
A course entitled "Leadership 101" was offered during the 2004-2005 school year as an adjunct to the Bear Fever project. Students explored the characteristics of leadership, practiced their skills, and developed projects to enhance the community/school projects already in existence as well as explored other ideas for additional projects.
After the bears hit the streets, we looked for other individuals and artist interested in creating posters of the bears, mugs, t-shirts, a coffee table book-memorabilia that helped to celebrate the project as well as create further positive energy within the community and perhaps opportunities to raise funds for activities, groups, or individuals within the community. In some cases, these types of ideas took additional funding to actualize.
Bear Fever began officially on January 19, 2004, at Boyertown's annual Progress Dinner, held at La Massaria at Bella Vista Golf Course where two prototype fiberglass life-sized "raw" (undecorated) bears were introduced to the community. They were then placed in the hands of a local artist and retired art teacher and current art instructor at Boyertown High School and their student apprentices who turned the fabrications into pieces of art.
On May 1, 2004, at Boyertown High School's annual Arts Expo, the two bears-fully fashioned-were introduced to the community and artists and sponsorships were sought for 30+ additional bears from the business community, civic organizations, individuals, and the other elementary and junior high schools within the district.
A year later at Boyertown High School's Arts Expo 2005, the collection of Bear Fever bears was on parade for the community, and the Bear Fever project's initial phase concluded.
I have no doubt that in bringing together the assorted groups within our community-young and old-the project helped to create the synergy toward building a better Boyertown and generate appreciation and interest in the arts and the area's fine artists.
At the time the organization Building a Better Boyertown was seeking to generate and coordinate projects; our community was poised for projects like these as witnessed by the support, praise, and success of some of the school/community art-related projects and businesses that have subsequently come alive in Boyertown.
"Build it and they will come" served as a theme for our project: we invited people to work together, have fun, and create a better community; and they gladly served their turn with joy. We believe Bear Fever resonated with our community's need to come together for good cause.
We realized success through media attention, notes of thank you to one another, a beautiful collection of sculptures, and a flurry of additional projects like posters, mugs, T-shirts, coaster sets, puzzles, and bear hunts which have "spun off" from our initial bear sculpture project and continue our mission ad infinitum.