On Sunday, don’t be surprised if you run into Andy Warhol with his white shock wig, or Salvador Dali, his grandiose mustache elaborately waxed or a demure Mona Lisa and her painter Leonardo DaVinci strolling Georgia Avenue in Wheaton. No, it is not an art gallery-inspired sequel to “A Night at the Museum.”
Rather, it is the second annual Wheaton Arts Parade, where artists, arts lovers and just plain folks put their creativity to work with arts-inspired floats and costumes, culminating in a day of free arts-focused festivities for children and adults at Wheaton Veterans Urban Park. And it’s intentionally car-free, said parade founder and organizer Dan Thompson. The Wheaton resident wants participants to roll, push, pull, cycle, walk and perform their art. And, besides, when else can you walk down Georgia Avenue?
Last year, nearly 300 people strolled, pushing and pulling their hand- and home-made floats depicting great works of art – think Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam” for starters. On Sunday, Sept. 23, artists and art wannabes will walk again, north on Georgia Avenue starting at Fitzgerald Auto, turning onto Price Avenue and finishing on Fern Street at Veterans Park. There, tents will feature art demonstrations, hands-on activities, a poetry slam, displays and performances from arts organizations including the Music Center at Strathmore’s local hip hop artist-in-residence Christylez Bacon and the cast of Olney Theatre Center’s current production of “South Pacific.” Also performing will be local “stars of tomorrow,” talented high schoolers from Blair, Einstein, Kennedy, Northwood and Wheaton high schools.
Parade founder Thompson loves Wheaton’s vibrant, diverse community and believes that the arts are not only a great way to bring people of all ages and backgrounds together; they are also a perfect expression of the community’s creative capital. “This year, I expect more,” he said. meaning more artists, more creativity, more visionaries — and more marchers and parade watchers. “My idea was to shine a spotlight on the artists in our local community,” he explained. “And what does Wheaton need? Something to bring all ages together to feel like a neighborhood.”
A traveling series of tableaux vivants are new to the parade this year, said Sandra Perez-Ramos, a Silver Spring multimedia artist who works in inks, watercolors, fiber arts and photography. With origins in European churches and courts, these “living pictures” featured costumed performers who posed in the style of famous paintings or Biblical scenes.
Perez-Ramos is helming a group of 19 local master artists from the area for a series of tableaux vivants of iconic paintings: Picasso’s “Marie-Therese/Seated Woman,” Vermeer’s “Girl With a Pearl Earring,” Munch’s “The Scream” and Magritte’s “Man with Bowler Hat.” They have been researching and gathering costumes and have met to practice in a former beauty school in the mall at Westfield Wheaton. These days, it’s called the Art Factory and is where the action happens. Filled with paints, crepe paper, chicken wire, papier mache, glitter and all manner of found and repurposed objects, most of the float-building took place in the donated space during the summer.
Other artists will walk the parade route costumed as DaVinci, Degas and Kusama (riding a bicycle), to name a few. “We selected what I call the icons of art to pose and act out a static image,” Perez-Ramos explained. “I want [parade-goers] to recognize them.” Participants in the tableaux vivants range in age from 6 to 72. For Perez-Ramos, it’s a family affair: she is portraying Freda Kahlo, while her husband is Kahlo’s husband, Diego Rivera, and their two children will be dressed as a monkey and a parrot in homage to the artist’s self-portrait.
For Rockville-based jewelry maker Loretta Kaneshige, the parade is also a multigenerational family event. Last year, joined by her son and grandchildren, she designed and crafted Crank, the giant robot, using found objects and sheets of aluminum. The project, which took months, began with her three grandchildren brainstorming with crayons on paper and selecting their favorite colors. Their conception, a retro-style “Jetsons”-like Rosie the robot, is mounted on a wheeled wooden platform that the grandkids help push – bars are installed along the sides. Kaneshige’s son and daughter-in-law pitched on fabricating the piece, as did Andre DiPanda, a construction maven. They had such a good time, and Kaneshige and DiPanda will soon will be married.
When not fabricating robots, Kaneshige works in IT for Gannett and teaches jewelry making in Sandy Spring. Creating this project with her family, she said, “makes it even more special. It’s becoming a family tradition.” They’re working on a dog and bunny robot that they hope will join Crank this year. And there’s talk about a rocket ship for 2019.
“Adults love this just as much as kids. I see lots of adults [who] lose that childlike freedom to express themselves if they don’t turn into an artist,” Kaneshige added. “That’s why the parade is so cool. People who aren’t artists every day can be artists and make art, even if it’s just for one weekend during the Arts Parade.”
The Wheaton Arts Parade starts at 10 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 23, rain or shine. The best places to stand are on the east side of Georgia between Pritchard and Reedie. The Festival will take place from noon to 5 p.m. in Veterans Park (Fern Street between Reedie Drive, Price Avenue and Amherst Avenue). Admission is free. Food will be available for purchase. Visit wheatonartsparade.com or facebook.com/WheatonArtsParade.