- The Washington Times - Friday, September 10, 2004

The painted pandas are leaving the streets of the District.

This weekend, the 700 block of Pennsylvania Avenue will say goodbye to its most fanciful resident. The Berber-inspired creation known as “Mike’s Carpet Shop,” will leave its perch on the corner near the Eastern Market Metro stop.

The other 149 pandas also will leave the city’s sidewalks by early tomorrow morning as their four-month stint comes to an end. All 150 colorful pandas will find new homes at American University and the Marriott Wardman Park hotel, the site of next month’s auction.

Imprinted with everything from parking tickets to cherry blossoms, the bears will be restored, then auctioned off Oct. 9 by the D.C. Commission for Arts and Humanities, bringing the PandaMania project to a close.

In addition to the live auction at the Wardman hotel, interested buyers also can bid for the statues through Oct. 18 online at www.pandamaniadc.org. Those wishing to participate in the live auction can visit the Web site to purchase tickets.

Silver Spring resident and homemaker Gwyn Fields, 63, who has taken pictures of each panda she has seen, said she will miss the curbside appeal of the Eastern Market panda and its companions.

“People are so busy running around from one place to another, to see something bright and whimsical is fun,” Mrs. Fields said.

Todd Sedmak, media relations director, said American University also partnered with the commission for its citywide 2002 Party Animals project, a colorful display of donkeys and elephants meant to evoke the national political party symbols. Although most of those statues were auctioned off, two remain on AU’s campus, and Mr. Sedmak said the university is looking forward to adding to its menagerie.

“Everybody loves the whole concept, so there will be a lot of excitement on campus Sunday morning,” Mr. Sedmak said.

Alexandra MacMaster, project manager for PandaMania, said the commission hoped this project would repeat the success of Party Animals. The commission used the money raised at the Party Animals auction to assist local artists. Ms. MacMaster said she believes this project has increased awareness of the city’s community of artists.

“We want people to explore neighborhoods in D.C.,” Ms. MacMaster said. “D.C. is not just about the Mall and the museums, it’s also about the neighborhoods and the artists in D.C.”

During the summer months, vandals damaged some of the statues, sending 20 of the pandas to a makeshift “hospital” on Pennsylvania Avenue. One panda was stolen and it has not been recovered, although Ms. MacMaster said police are still investigating the case.

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