The donkeys are coming.
A herd of 57 fiberglass donkeys, each representing an American state or territory, are being painted by local artists inside a shipping warehouse in Port Richmond. They will soon debut on the streets of Philadelphia.
To welcome the Democratic National Convention to Philadelphia next month, former Gov. Ed Rendell hatched a plan to install donkeys all over downtown, each brightly painted with symbols and scenes of the home states of the DNC delegates.
“We’ve got great cooperation from the 57 delegation heads,” said Rendell. “Many checked with their governors to see what they wanted on. Their instructions were forwarded to the artists.”
So Kansas’ donkey, for example, will feature images from “The Wizard of Oz.” Kentucky’s version will feature a barrel of bourbon. California’s representative will have the Golden Gate Bridge.
Twenty-eight artists, all working in the greater Philadelphia area, were hired for the project. Hawk Krall, a Philadelphia native known for his dense cartoons of urban life, was given the cherry assignment of painting New Jersey. His yellow donkey pops with images of Frank Sinatra, classic diners, Boardwalk Skee-Ball games, roller coasters, and midcentury Atlantic City hotels.
“I tried to keep this simple — that was my plan so I wouldn’t be here for six days,” said Krall. “But as I went, I just kind of filled stuff up.”
Artist Brad Carney was assigned a state he has never visited: Minnesota. He originally wanted to paint the donkey blue in reference to Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, but the Minnesota delegates came back with something more somber.
In the end they agreed to paint it purple in honor of the late musician Prince.
“That is the color of Prince’s guitar,” said Carney. “I went online and found that quintessential guitar of his, found that color Pantone and mixed that color by hand and made sure it was the Prince purple. That is Prince’s purple color. That was important for me, at least.”
On July 1, the life-size, fiberglass donkeys will be installed in various locations throughout downtown Philadelphia, mounted on steel platforms. After the convention, the delegates will have the option of taking their donkey home, at cost. Any remaining donkeys will be auctioned off, to benefit the artists.