Bye Bye Bunny Wall?

Bye Bye Bunny Wall? Will the bunnies stay or go?

Kathy King Johnson Executive Director of the Cheboygan Area Arts Council

The Bunny Wall in Cheboygan has a checkered past. If flowers and clouds and blue bunnies could spring up overnight from cracks in the sidewalk, so bunnies appeared early one morning in 2013. Officially, no one knew the bunnies were coming, so no one approved them. But the City of Cheboygan, who owns the wall, liked them. The bunnies stayed: public art in Cheboygan.

The wall itself has some issues. Ownership is one of them. Woolworth’s used to stand where Festival Square is. Now all that’s left of Woolworth’s is the Bunny Wall. It was originally an interior fire wall between the Woolworth’s and the store next door. The City owns only the bricks in that wall, but no one knows what is behind it. It might offer some support to the wall next door, which the city does not own. Tearing the Bunny Wall down is expensive and might not be the wisest move structurally.

Bricks are another issue. Interior bricks are soft, not meant to hold up to the elements. They are crumbling. And I suppose Little Rabbit Foo Foo could bop you on the head with a brick. To repair the brick is probably as expensive as tearing it down. It might be more feasible to repaint the bunnies elsewhere on a more permanent canvas.

The bunnies aren’t as vibrant. The clouds have lost some luster. The bloom is fading from the rose. The bunnies need help. Carl Oxley III, aka popartmonkey, aka CO3, is the artist who painted the bunnies. He grew up in Cheboygan and now lives in Royal Oak, our Bunny Sister City.

“Art is important to a community. It makes people who live there feel interconnected with the language of imagery that is unique to their daily experience. People are able to identify with and feel emotion because of art and how it interacts with the environment. It becomes a part of the community,” Oxley says.

The Bunny Wall is part of our community. One grandmother brings her grandchildren to the wall every summer to shoot a picture showing how much they’ve grown in relation to the bunnies. Several local art collectors have wall bunnies in their yards and on their hearths. Many of us have our pictures taken in front of the Bunny Wall (I’m guilty) and I’ve heard there are even wedding proposal pictures taken there.

In spring of 2018 in Royal Oak, Oxley cleaned up a ratty old railroad bridge and was blithely painting bunnies on it when police stepped in. They arrested him on charges of vandalism, since the wall belonged to the railroad company. Bunnies identical to those in Cheboygan began popping up in Royal Oak, proliferating as bunnies do. Art wars escalated and residents rallied behind the battle cry of “Bring Back the Bunnies” and “We Want Art.” Royal Oak citizens were incensed. They bought bunny yard signs and had their own walls and doors painted in bunnies to support Oxley’s work. Charges were dropped and order restored. Oxley’s Happy Bunnies made the news. 

The people of Cheboygan made their choice for public art when they voted at the end of last month’s charrette. You want vibrant, colorful, interactive art in Festival Square. Art experts are scratching their heads. Do we tear down the bunny wall and build anew? Leave it? Temporarily refresh the bunnies? Tell me what YOU think! I want to hear your Bunny Wall stories, good and bad. Email me:  kathy@theoperahouse.org. My ears are up and I’m listening!

If you want to be a part of Art Vision Cheboygan, join us in the Green Room of the Opera House Wed. Sept. 25 at 5:30. We are choosing committees to help bring more public art to Cheboygan!

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