Paradogs

Submitted by Ken Burns

0

Client: Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum

Location: Everett, WA, United States

Completion date: 2019

Artwork budget: $75,000

Project Team

Designer/Artist

Curious Beast

Developer/Fabricator

Mach 2 Arts

Overview

Paradogs is a feature of Animals In War, an interpretive exhibition that is part of recent efforts by the Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum (FHCAM) to bring more human-centered stories into presentations of vintage aircraft and armored vehicles.

Designed by Curious Beast in collaboration with Mach 2 Arts, the iconic sculpture depicts parachuting dogs used in wartime. Suspended above the 1,000 sq.-ft. exhibition, the piece marks and draws attention to the space from all points throughout the museum’s new 30,000 sq.-ft. Hangar. Elements include figures made of 3d printed parts, molded plastic parachutes, and canvas packs. There are five life-sized dog figures in the air, and one on the ground that visitors are encouraged to interact with.

Throughout the exhibition are additional figures depicting animals used in wartime, including a horse, a messenger pigeon and a cat. The larger set of parts works together to organize, unify and activate the space.

The sculptural figures complement interpretive content developed for the exhibition by Curious Beast, including environmental graphics, displays of artifacts and graphics that explore wartime roles of animals at-a-glance and in detail, and an emotionally moving section about animals decorated for their military service.

Goals

In addition to the primary goal of telling the surprising stories of animals in war, the overriding goals of the exhibition and the sculptures that are a part of it flowed from objectives Curious Beast had already helped to establish for the overall experience of the museum’s new hangar: bring human-centered stories and interpretation into exhibits; attract new audiences, especially women and children; provide memorable iconic features, including physical, tactile ones; offer visitors opportunities for photographable moments; and create experiences that dovetail well with programming, events and media efforts.

Some of the photos seen here were taken during “Dog Days”, an FHCAM event that visitors were invited to bring their dogs to. Events like Dog Days, and visitors’ shared experience of them using social media are now key to the museum’s promotion and efforts to bring in new audiences.

Process

Inspired by an offhand remark by Adrian Hunt, the Executive Director of FHCAM, that he’d like to someday do an exhibition about animals in war, Curious Beast created and shared a conceptual presentation of the possibilities of such an exhibit, including dramatic visualization of the Paradogs artwork. Happily, Adrian embraced the initiative and approved it for development alongside other work already being done for the museum’s newest hangar.

Development of the artwork included careful consideration of how to create an ideal experience for visitors to the exhibition; how a playful, stylized artwork might be interpreted by various visitors; and expected issues surrounding use, safety and maintenance of the artwork.

Given a modest budget of $75,000, a timeline of just a few months, and the unprecedented nature of the work, the project was to a great extent a labor of love for those involved, with an all-consuming search for less expensive ways to build parts, significant challenges related to creating satisfying representations of parachutes, and long hours of extra work done by Mach 2 Arts, the firm that built virtually all parts of the sculpture.