Colorful elephants are back in downtown Erwin, Tn.. so I reached out to Jamie Rice, Communications Specialist for the town of Erwin about the delightful pachyderms. Tell those who may not know, how the Erwin Elephant Revival began?
EER began in 2016 as a community initiative created to heal and reflect on the memory of Mary the Elephant, whose life tragically ended in the Clinchfield Railroad Yard on September 13, 1916. This public art project seeks to raise funds and awareness for various charities as well as benefit The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee.
Tell us about the elephants on the streets of Erwin this year.
There are 8 fiberglass elephants located in our Historic Downtown. These are almost 60” tall and made of fiberglass and were designed and manufactured specifically for the Town of Erwin.
This little herd has certainly seen some obstacles. These elephants were originally supposed to be displayed in 2019, but serious flooding in 2018 at the manufacture in Nebraska caused a delay. Then in Spring of 2020, Covid-19 hit and it delayed their release another month.
Do the elephants increase out-of-town visitors and is the economic impact positive?
Absolutely! All our downtown merchants have seen a rise in foot traffic. Out of town visitors who do not know the story usually come in and ask the nearest merchant the story. It gives them a positive story to tell. I met with a mother and daughter who live in Knoxville and come to visit and take pictures of the elephants every year. She loves them so much. The EER has been such a success, we have been featured in multiple magazines. The Town was featured in a story that won national recognition in an NPR podcast competition.
All the Elephants are very creative this year. How are the artists chosen for the project? Is there a high demand to paint them?
A call for volunteer artists normally is released in the fall via social media. We normally have about 50-60 entries every year. 8 are chosen and the artists have about 3 months to complete the project.
How long will the Elephants be on display?
The Elephants will be on display until December 1 or as weather allows. These statues have an automotive quality clear coat.
Finally, tell us about the bidding process and when the general public can bid?
Due to the social distancing restrictions still in place, we are electing to move forward with a silent auction. We are taking bids all summer, until December 1 at 4pm. Starting minimum bid is $1500. For those who would like to place a bid or have more questions, Please call Jamie Rice at Town of Erwin at 423-743-6231 or email email@example.com. Photos for all the elephants can be found on erwintn.org.