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Before the Party Animals hit D.C. streets this spring, federal park ranger Leonard D. Lee took a drive downtown with officials from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities.
Their purpose: to tour proposed sites for the decorated donkeys and elephants, making sure that none of the sculptures would be trespassing on National Park Service property.
Despite Lee’s efforts, though, five of the animals ended up on the sidewalk along Pennsylvania Avenue NW, a national historic site under Park Service control.
“Considering the tremendous amount of attention that the Party Animals exhibit has received over the past several weeks, it has become increasingly difficult for the National Park Service to justify the placement of the sculptures on our property,” Richard Merryman, chief of the federal Office of Park Programs, wrote to the arts commission on July 11, in a letter demanding “immediate attention to the identification and removal of misplaced sculptures.”
It took nearly two months for the commission to act. Last week, a city street crew in a truck equipped with lifting gear began uprooting the out-of-bounds animals and relocating them to pavement within private or D.C. jurisdiction.
In some cases, it was simply a matter of moving the animals a few short feet. In front of the Willard Intercontinental Hotel, for example, the elephant America the Beautiful and the donkey Barn Raising had to be pushed farther back from the street, right up against the building.
Elsewhere, the relocation was much more onerous. Outside the Presidential Building, the crew moved the elephant Monkey Business from in front of the ground-level T.G.I. Friday’s and hauled it all the way around the corner onto 12th Street NW.
Arts commission Chair Dorothy P. McSweeny says project managers didn’t realize that they had crossed over onto federal property but were “happy to comply” with the Park Service’s eviction notice.
Park Service officials say they had no advance notice that the commission was interested in those specific locations, which were not included in the initial site survey. —Chris Shott
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