- The Washington Times - Monday, May 28, 2001

RICHMOND — Theyre everywhere, brightening the city landscape and offering cheerful companionship to people enjoying a quick lunch outside.
Theyre rockfish sculptures decorated by area artists — amateurs and professionals — in a variety of wacky ways, and Richmonders love them.
"Its a fun idea," said Dave Nichols, 47, an auditor for Medicaid. "Itll be very depressing when they take them all down."
The outdoor exhibit, dubbed Go Fish, is modeled on a 1999 cow exhibit in Chicago and is a tribute to the resurgence of the rockfish in the James River. The 5-foot sculptures began popping up around the city May 9, and the last are scheduled to go up June 1.
The sculptures run the gamut, from a Marilyn Monroe fish sporting a blond wig and covered in diamonds to one covered in images and stamps from India that is a tribute to Rudyard Kipling. An Elvis Presley fish moves around all the time and could be spotted anywhere — a pun on Elvis sightings, said Susan Jamieson, who conceived and chaired the project.
And people are talking.
"I saw one with a monkey on its back on a truck going down the street the other day," said Amie Patrick, 20, a student at Virginia Commonwealth University. "So I e-mailed a friend and said I saw a fish with a monkey on its back, and she said, 'What are you talking about?"
The locals also have become fiercely possessive of their rockfish, swamping the police with calls when one is moved and they think it was stolen, Miss Jamieson said.
On one occasion, when one was moved from a temporary street location to a permanent one, Miss Jamiesons 1708 Gallery, which organized the exhibit, received several frantic calls.
"A number of people were very distraught that their fish had disappeared," said the gallerys director, Peter Calvert. "But then they got a new fish."
Most of the sculptures are on display downtown, with a few more spread out around the city. The gallery organized the exhibit with help from partners, including the city of Richmond, the Virginia Tourism Corp., the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce, which offered time and money.
Each sculpture also is sponsored by a local business or organization and will be auctioned Oct. 20, unless the sponsor decides to hold on to the fish. The proceeds will benefit the gallery, charities and several nonprofit groups.
The exhibit is "a tribute to the raw artistic ability in the Richmond area," Mr. Calvert said.
Richmonds 1708 Gallery came up with the idea of the exhibit following Chicagos example, which had its "Cows on Parade" exhibit in 1999. That show — modeled on a similar one in Zurich — attracted an estimated 100 million additional tourists and as much as $200 million in additional spending in the city.
The cow sculptures also raised $3.5 million for charity when they were auctioned at the end of the exhibit.
Since then, many other cities in America have followed suit, including Norfolk with its mermaids; Buffalo, N.Y., with its buffalo; and Blooomington, Ill., with its corn on the cob.
The result?
Another exhibit in Chicago, City Critters, which brings together about 50 sculptures from 40 cities, including a mermaid from Norfolk and one of Richmonds rockfish, decorated by Jennifer Van Winkle and Bob Hirosky, a married couple from Charlottesville.
"Its a wonderful project and were so happy to be a part of it," Mrs. Van Winkle said.


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