Giant bunnies are back in Charlotte, prompting selfies and even a wedding
This was supposed to be the last week of the Charlotte SHOUT! Festival. But the celebration of diversity and creativity was postponed because of the pandemic for the second year in a row. There's a pretty big consolation prize, though — a dozen of them, in fact, with floppy ears to boot.
"Intrude," a public art installation composed of 12 large, inflatable rabbits that light up at night, jumped to life Sunday in a field across from First Ward Park in uptown, just off of East Eighth Street.
“It’s been really fun,” said Bree Stallings, director of artistic experiences at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. “On the first night, we had probably over 600 people come before we had really started even announcing it — while the rest of the bunnies were still being blown up.”
When the festival came back in 2019 after a 10-year break, "Intrude" was one of its most popular attractions. Blumenthal is a major sponsor of the festival and had already secured the installation for 2021 by the time SHOUT! was called off.
“It had a huge response,” Stallings said. “It brought a lot of people out, and there’s a bunch of joy that happens when people get to see large-scale artwork — especially stuff that lights up. And it really ignites their inner child and makes room for a moment of play across generations.”
Now the rabbits are back, but there are more of them this time.
Y'all...they're MULTIPLYING!🐰— Blumenthal Performing Arts (@BlumenthalArts) September 30, 2021
Can you spot the FOUR new @parerstudio Bunnies we added to First Ward Field this morning?
They look great alongside the "As strong as the beat of my heart" Of Earth and Sky poetry installation! To read the full poem, visit: https://t.co/SrzASNdKLm pic.twitter.com/cmqXcA5I65
The installation was created by Australian artist Amanda Parer. "Intrude" comes in all shapes and sizes — the Parer Studio site shows options ranging from small (aka as big as a pony) to XXL (aka, bigger than some houses). And they've traveled to cities across the world, including Rome, Shanghai and Mexico City.
"Intrude" is meant literally, according to the studio. The bunnies are "invading" their host cities in a reference to how rabbits were introduced to Australia in the 1800s and have become an invasive species. They've actually wreaked some ecological havoc there, harming native species and crops, National Geographic reports.
But, you know, rabbits are also cute.
"'Intrude' deliberately leans on this cutesy image coupled with a strong visual humor to lure the audience into the artwork only to reveal the more serious environmental messages which form the basis of the work," Parer Studio says on its site. "They are huge, the size referencing 'the elephant in the room,' the problem, like our impact on the natural world, big and in plain sight, but still chosen to be ignored."
The "Intrude" bunnies are definitely too big to ignore if you're anywhere near First Ward Park. The largest one is just over 35 feet tall.
“There’s something about the scale and the magnetism of those things that get people out of their cars, running across the field and throwing their arms up to take a picture,” Stallings said.
Elizabeth Palmisano and Krystle Baller were so excited when they found out the bunnies were coming back that they got married in front of them. The pair had just started dating in 2019 when they went to the SHOUT! Festival — and that’s where they say they fell in love. “Intrude” played a big part in those memories, and the couple’s original wedding plans got disrupted by the pandemic.
So, when they found out the bunnies were coming back, they set up a flash wedding.
“There were children and adults running around the bunnies just playing, not taking themselves too seriously,” Palmisano said. “And I think that’s a really special kind of magic, and I really wanted the space we got married in to feel as magical as our relationship feels.”
They tied the knot Wednesday evening. The moment lived up to their expectations.
“There were so many random people out there and everybody was just smiling from ear to ear, and it was really cool,” Baller said. “... It was just really neat for strangers to walk up and see a public proclamation of love.”
Swing by in the mornings and you'll see families with young children meandering through the installation and taking photos. At night, the rabbits glow, with Charlotte's skyline lit up behind them.
"Intrude" is free to visit, and it's open from 10 a.m. to midnight through Oct. 12.
It's worth noting there are a few safety rules for the enormous rabbits — common sense stuff like no hitting them, jumping on them, trying to crawl under them. As the "bunny rules" on a sign at the installation puts it, "treat them like real bunnies."
Especially the one that's the size of a 3-story house.
Another thing: There are two other public art installations intended for SHOUT! that you can see now. “GAIA” by Luke Jerram is a 22-foot-diameter rendition of Earth that’s suspended at Founders Hall on North Tryon Street. It comes down tomorrow. “Of Earth and Sky” is composed of poetry and statements and is scattered throughout uptown and will be up until Oct. 31.