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Back In Bronze - By Stephen Jackson - April 26, 2017 - SF Weekly
SF Weekly

Back In Bronze

Bronze bunny (Photo by Daniel Dent)

On Saturday, April 29, at 5 p.m., Jeremy Fish’s long-anticipated, 11-foot tall Haight Street Bronze Bunny will be unveiled in front of the forthcoming Lower Haight Art Center at 215 Haight St. Once installed, it will be the largest crowd-funded public statue in California.

“It’s a personal symbol that I’ve used to represent my life’s work, and it’s a symbol I derived to represent my circle of friends,” Fish says. “It means a lot to me, because Lower Haight is the neighborhood where we all lived in the mid ’90s. It also means a lot to me because it solidifies my connection with that neighborhood, and being a part of Upper Playground, which has been there for almost two decades.”

More specifically, the statue is emblematic of The Silly Pink Bunnies, which Fish describes as “a worldwide gang of roughly 500 members” who meet annually on Easter Sunday every year.

After the ceremony and as part of the Lower Haight Art Walk, Fish will give away 100 signed and numbered commemorative prints at Upper Playground (220 Fillmore St.)

Haight Street Art Center’s Executive Director Peter McQuaid, along with the Lower Haight Merchants and Neighbors Association (LoHaMNA), were instrumental in guiding the project through all the logistics a large-scale public art project entails.

“It was a lot more of a process than I anticipated, nor anyone else on the ‘bunny team’ anticipated,” McQuaid says. “It’s complex, but for good reasons, I suppose — and I’m just glad to say that we’re now here.”

The Bronze Bunny evolved from the original Silly Pink Bunny statue, which stood on the corner of Hayes and Laguna streets for three years before it was removed to make way for Alchemy by Alta, a large-scale residential development. Some might remember its “funeral,” held back in September 2013. After some pomp and circumstance, a massive excavator tore the roughly 8-foot-tall foam-and-fiberglass rabbit to shreds before a crowd of more than a hundred people. Afterward, fans descended upon the remains like vultures on roadkill.

However, as the jaws of the machine dug into the bunny’s face, plans for its replacement were already in the works. A few people from LoHaMNA and several others organized a Kickstarter campaign that ultimately raised $75,000 to fund the creation of the bronze statue, which Fish made with Berkeley sculptor Brin Berliner.

Like everyone else involved with the project, Berliner’s anxious to see it unveiled on Saturday.

“I couldn’t be happier, to be honest,” Berliner says. “It’s the biggest sculpture that I’ve ever been a part of, and I like that it’s going to have longevity, so people can view it at their leisure, publicly. Also, I love San Francisco, so I’m glad it’s here.”

The statue is hollow, made entirely of bronze, and weighs nearly half a ton. To build it, the two artists carved the shape from a massive foam block and made wax molds of different pieces of the surface, which were then cast into about 30 separate bronze plates and later reassembled. Berliner says that fabrication took roughly nine months, and the bunny has been sitting in a small statue garden at the Artworks Foundry in Berkeley — where it was made — since August, while final arrangements for the installation were made.

“Eventually, drawings and paintings turn to dust, and my T-shirts will go back to being threads,” Fish says. “Murals and buildings get knocked down. This is exciting because long after I’m dead, the bronze bunny will still be there to greet visitors to the Lower Haight every day and remind them that at one time, The Silly Pink Bunnies were the raddest gang in the galaxy.”

The unveiling occurs at 5 p.m. this Saturday, April 29 at 215 Haight St. The Lower Haight Art Walk runs until 10 p.m. along Haight from Webster to Scott streets.