Anti-globalization demonstrations have not yet overthrown international capitalism or two-party rule. But they have made a change in the District’s landscape: With protests looming, more than a quarter of the Party Animals have been removed from the streets, bringing part of the public-art project to a premature end.
On Sept. 23, Michael Philip Fisher, a recent graduate of American University, stopped by the school’s campus in upper Northwest to pick up his diploma. The Friedheim Quadrangle, which is surrounded by buildings including the library and the student union, was nearly empty of students, Fisher says. But it was full of Party Animals.
Sixty-three of the statues, including Ella Phantsgerald and Stars the Carousel Donkey, had appeared on the quad over the weekend. “It was basically just me and them,” Fisher says, “so it felt like I had walked in on them, like there was a Party Animal coup afoot or something, and I had walked in on the planning session.”
Rather than seizing control of the city, though, the animals had lost control of it. According to the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, the animals were moved to AU for political asylum, in advance of planned protests surrounding the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings downtown. After a last-minute request from the D.C. police, virtually all of the Party Animals on display downtown were taken away.
Samantha Lane, one of the commission’s Party Animal wranglers, says police were concerned that the statues could be damaged in a melee. “We’re taking whatever precautions we can to protect the animals,” Lane says.
Though the protests are scheduled to end Sept. 28, the donkeys and elephants under refuge at AU will never return to their old places. Next week, Lane says, they will be moved to an undetermined location. There they will wait, while the rest of the Party Animals are gradually gathered to join them, to be prepped for their auction in late October. —Holly Bailey