Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Cat Fete

Those cats are not back. The fifty fetching fiberglass felines that bedecked downtown sidewalks in the Village of CATskill last summer have moved on. “Rip Claw Winkle” and “Rip Van Twinkle,” and “Clawed Meownet” (the Impressionist) and “Pablo Picatso” and “Feline Groovy” are no longer on public show. They now occupy domestic stations in the homes of private buyers, who won them in spirited bidding at the auction that concluded the Village’s inaugural Cat ‘n Around Festival. They have just been succeeded, however, by “Cheetah Rivera” and “Botanicat,” by “Catillac” and “Cat House Cat,” and by48 other glittering kitties.

The Cat ‘n Around festival (also touted, of course, as the Cat’s Meow) had its origins last year as a Chamber of Commerce promotion. The aim was to boost local spirit and to bring in lots of tourists. The model was experience provided by other up-state towns: Saratoga with its horse figures, the plastic pigs of Guilderland, and Bennington, Vermont’s Moosefest. That promotion, in 2005, featured almost-life-sized critters bearing such names as “Driving Moose Daisy,” “Any Which Way But Moose,” “Mooselight in Vermont,” “Moose in the Sky with Diamonds,” “Moosemobile,” “A Moose For All Seasons,” “Metamorpho-Moose,” and the elusive “Anonymoose.”

The Catskillian idea was to invite artists and craftspersons to submit designs for the ornamentation of fiberglass cat figures, 20 inches high (plus 10 inches of tail). Local sponsors then would pick their favorite designs, paying five hundred dollars toward the cost of bringing to life, so to speak, the imagined animals. Fifty designs would be picked from the entries, and at the end of the summer, after being displayed on stands all around town, the cats would be auctioned off, with a quarter of the gross proceeds going to the makers.

The project attracted a multitude of candidates. Among the winners were creations bearing such names as {{“Rip Van Twinkle” and “Rip Claw Winkle,” “Feline Groovy” and}} “Purr-Fection,” “Catillac” and “Catatonic” and “Community Cat-alyst,” “TemPuss the Time Cat,” “Garden Ecatstacy,” “Sno-Cat” (by Hunter Mountain plowman David Slutzky), “Clawed Meownet” (the Impressionist) and “Pablo Picatso,” “Kaaterskill Katy” and “Copy Kat,” “Sophisticat,” “Backpack Cat,” “Mia Feral” and “Meow-tain Music.”

In terms of artistry, in terms of cleverness, in popular attraction, and in eventual dollar values, the Cat ‘n Around festival of 2007 turned out to be, well, a howling success. At auction at summer’s end, the cats went to buyers for up to $4600.

Could that success be repeated? The idea of staging a sequel right away aroused plenty of misgivings in Catskill’s Chamber of Commerce. The directors decided to take the risk.

As it turned out, the Cat ‘n Around festival of 2008 is bigger, and it could well turn out to be better—more popular, more lucrative for the artists and other good causes—than the original. This time, from a crowded field, 62 cat designs were chosen by sponsors. In artistry and inventiveness, the new cats have turned out to be every bit the equal, collectively, of their predecessors.

“Phil the Philatelic Cat,” sporting thousands of cancelled stamps (and crafted by a county judge), now welcomes visitors to the Village Post Office. Chocolatey, partly unwrapped “Kit Cat” adorns the sidewalk in front of The Candyman. “Americat,” done in red, white and blue, with top hat, guards the county courthouse, while “Aquaricat” fronts Fish & Friends. “Cop-Purr,” one of artist Kenny Rich’s five copacetic creations, guards the Police Station and bears at remarkable resemblance to the Chief. “Sweet Dreams” offers comfort to a dentist’s patients, and “Mr Catzedo” fronts The Bridal Shoppe.

Greeting pedestrians who stroll by Catskill’s Community Theater is “Cinema Cat,” whose body paint touts Manx Brothers movies along with “Cat On a Hot Tin Roof “ and “What’s New, Pussycat?” as well as “Claws,” “The Great Catsby,” “The Sound of Mewsic,” “An American in Purris” and the classic “Catsablanca.”

Catlantis with Luna.jpg

Mounted elsewhere along Main and West Bridge streets in Catskill are clubs-hefting “Caddy Cat” (sponsored by the Rip Van Winkle Country Club), “Aero Cat,” “Pussy Willow,” “Cat House Cat” (Pat Feinman’s remembrance of things past on Main Street), "Cat Fish" and “Cat Bird” (and yes, it is), “Blue Jean Cat,” "Kiki la Doucette," “Jean-Claude Kitty” the downhill skier, “Santa Claws,” “Cooked to Purr-fection” (outside Village Pizza). “Catlantis,” “Copurrnicus,” “Botanicat,” “Captain Kiddy,” “Catson Pollock” the messy modernist, the fivesome called “Katzenjamer Kittens” and, gracing The Wine Cellar, “Wet Your Whisker.”

Swamp Angel 2.jpg Cat'n Hook.jpg

Installation was completed on Friday (5/23). According to a rookie reporter for the local newspaper, “streetwalkers are already picking favorites.”

Mikato 1.jpg Kaatskill Cat 1.jpg

Pictured: "Catlantis" by Ellen DeLucia, with her pet Luna; "Swamp Angel" by Peg Greason; "Cat 'n Hook" by Cynthia Mulvaney; "Mikato" by Maj Kalfus; "Kaatskill Cat" by Jim Cramer.

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