The strange behaviors began more than three weeks ago, when the first pack of Nipper dogs was unleashed outdoors in downtown Albany.
“Someone put out a bowl of water for a dog. Someone put sunglasses on a dog. They are petting them, patting them. It’s really been fun,” says Georgette Steffens, executive director of the Downtown Albany Business Improvement District.
But wait a doggone minute.
These aren’t real canines, these are Fiberglas sculptures, like the painted horses in Saratoga Springs or the Dutch clogs that showed up on Albany streets in 2012.
Doesn’t matter. Dog lovers think they are quite a treat.
Just check out #downtownispawsome on Facebook and Twitter, and you’ll see photos of live dogs and their owners happily posing with the artworks.
“The real dogs try to play with them,” says Steffens. “Or their hair stands up.”
Downtown Is Pawsome, a public art project sponsored by the Albany BID, honors Nipper, Albany’s animal icon, and like the Dutch clogs, the 20 dog statues were especially molded for the Capitol City by a company in Chicago.
Ten of the three-foot-tall terriers were installed in early June, and 10 more will be put out in the week beginning July 12. Each sculpture has a sponsor and will be auctioned in May 2018.
“We added an additional 10 because of the response from artists,” says Steffens.
Now, we all know Nipper. For more than 60 years, the 28-foot-tall, four-ton, black-and-white dog statue has been perched on top of a North Albany building. We see the popular pup from the highway and he’s pictured in downtown skyscapes. In the mid-20th century, he was an advertising image for RCA and other companies.
Artists were selected for the Nipper project based on their designs.
Kit Collins, who lives in Massachusetts, covered her dog with illustrations of places, events, people and things that represent Albany.
John Gaudet, an Albany artist, used recycled cigar bands to turn his dog, Bandit, into an artwork.
Sitting on Broadway, in front of the Albany County Convention and Visitors Bureau, is Jessica Mansmith’s Dutch-inspired dog, painted with a bright blue Delft pattern on a white program.
In the 12 years that the Albany BID has been doing public art projects, this one has been the most popular with artists.
“We reviewed 82 applications,” says Jason Bonafide, director of special events for the BID.
Other projects, like the Dutch clogs and “Play Me, I’m Yours,” in 2014, in which old pianos were turned into artworks, drew less than 15 applications each.
Besides the Nipper connection, another attraction may be the project’s connection to the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society. Albany BID is partnered with the organization, and a portion of the proceeds will go to help and house animals.
The Nipper dog project is no accident, says Steffens. “We have nicknamed this ‘the year of the dog’ in downtown Albany.”
With a surge of building in apartment units, there are more dogs downtown, she says.
“Fifty percent of our properties allow for dogs. We’re seeing a lot of new four-legged friends.”
The project also ties into plans for a new downtown dog park that’s being built by the city later this month.
‘Downtown is Pawsome’
WHAT: 20 statues of Nipper dogs turned into artworks and installed outdoors around downtown Albany. Ten are already on the streets, 10 more will be installed the week of July 12.
WHEN: Through May 2018
ARTISTS: Bob Anderson, Matthew Bartik, Sarah Bassett, Mitchell Biernacki, Melanie Lucia Clarke, Kit Collins, Diane Cubit, Kristen Dahms, Tim Fealey, First Church in Albany, John Gaudet, Gretchen Geser, Betsy Gorman, Ali Herrmann, Jessica Mansmith, Myers Middle School, Scott Somerville, Upside Collective, Sandra Wileski and Elaine Wilson.
HOW MUCH: Free
MORE INFO: Download a map at downtownalbany.org or pick up a map at the Downtown Albany Business Improvement District, 21 Lodge St., Albany. 465-2143, Facebook.