The WEHA Bear Fair will begin with a ‘reveal’ in West Hartford Center on Aug. 31.
By Ronni Newton
A dozen decorated bears departed Daley’s Den this week, and next Tuesday will lumber into West Hartford Center and Blue Back Square where they will be on display for the enjoyment of the public and as part of a unique fundraiser for a a variety of nonprofit organizations.
The 90-pound animals are crafted of fiberglass and each is 48 inches tall, 63 inches long, and 30 inches wide. While each life-size bear has been cast in the same mold, the similarity ends there.
We-Ha.com, along with Dennis House of WTNH, got a sneak peek at the bears this week as they acclimated to the outdoors in the Daley Moving & Storage parking lot. (Click here to see Dennis’ story which first aired Wednesday on WTNH.)
The designs range from a U.S. Army bear – complete with “bear tags” – created to benefit veteran support organization APK Charities, to a beach-themed bear sponsored by Cantor Colburn (that already has plans to find a permanent den in the garden of Mayor Shari Cantor and Michael Cantor’s home), to a bear wearing running shoes (Karhu brand, which has the tagline “run with the bear”) that features caricatures of those who donated $100 each to offset Fleet Feet Sports’ sponsorship cost.
The methods of painting were diverse as well. The Elmwood bear was spray-painted by renowned artist Corey Pane, who recently created the racial equity mural on the side of the Noah Webster Library in West Hartford Center. The bear sponsored by Udolf Properties will be raising money for the Ronald McDonald House in Springfield, and is decorated with the handprints of those who reside there.
Several of the bears were painted at “Daley’s Den,” aka the Torrington warehouse of Daley Moving & Storage (a West Hartford Chamber of Commerce member and also one of the sponsors) and all 12 have been resident there for the past several weeks where protective sealant was applied and has been curing. Daley Moving & Storage will carefully transport them to West Hartford.
“We’ve been planning this for the last year-and-a-half, all during COVID,” said event organizer Tom Hickey of 20/20 Media.
The Bear Fair is a similar concept to the Cow Parade that visited West Hartford in 2003 and 2007 – a display of public art that doubles as a community-wide fundraiser.
“Everyone has bears in their backyards these days,” Hickey said. He and other organizers thought the bears would be easily identifiable, and fun and safe way to spotlight local artists, nonprofits, and businesses.
Many nonprofits have suffered financially during the pandemic, as events were canceled. “This is a way for the community to give back and support the nonprofits,” Hickey said.
When the bears are placed around the Noah Webster statute and in the courtyard of Blue Back Square on Aug. 31, each will be bolted into a platform that will also display a unique QR code with a link to information about the artwork and the nonprofit. Those who come to view the bear will be able to make a donation directly from their smartphone, and 100% will go directly to that charity.
“Wouldn’t it be great if we could raise $10,000 per bear?” Hickey said.
While the display is clearly an Instagrammable attraction, and “paw-traits” with the bears will definitely be encouraged, Hickey said sitting on the bears will be discouraged.
The reveal is scheduled for Tuesday Aug. 31, from 4:30-6 p.m., at Webster Walk, 20 South Main St., West Hartford.The unveiling itself will take place at 5 p.m. sharp.
The bears will remain on display at Webster Walk and in Blue Back Square through Oct. 29, 2021. Plans are for them to be relocated to a space, to be announced, where they can congregate indoors before heading to their “fur-ever” dens chosen by the sponsors.
The Bear Fair sponsors, along with their designated non-profits and the artists designing their bears, include:
Sponsor: Elmwood Business Association
Nonprofit: Faxon Library
Artist: Corey Pane
Sponsor: Cantor Colburn LLC
Nonprofit: Westmoor Park
Artist: Steve Hunter
Sponsor: Westfield Bank
Nonprofit: The Ron Foley Foundation
Artist: Anne Gogh
Sponsor: West Hartford funeral homes Sheehan Hilborn Breen Funeral Home, Molloy Funeral Home, Hebrew Funeral Association, and WTNH
Nonprofit: APK Charities
Artist: Bryan Wziontko
Sponsor: Udolf Properties
Nonprofit: Ronald McDonald House
Artist: The children at Ronald McDonald House in Springfield with Art Director Ray Talbot
Sponsor: Modern Tire of West Hartford
Nonprofit: Foundation for West Hartford Public Schools
Artist: Che’ La’Mora Hardy
Sponsor: Juniper Homecare
Nonprofit: Connecticut Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association
Artist: Taylor Talmage
Sponsor: Fleet Feet of West Hartford
Nonprofit: Footwear with Care
Artist: Bill Dougal
Sponsor: Dog Star Rescue
Nonprofit: Dog Star Rescue
Artist: Dog Star Rescue staff and volunteers
Sponsor: Hartford Health Care
Nonprofit: Food FARMacy
Artist: Joanna Cistulli
Nonprofit: For All ages
Artist: For All Ages members (Northwest Catholic students and Duncaster residents; coordinator Deb Bibbins)
Sponsor: Daley Moving and Storage
Nonprofit: The Bridge Family Center
Artist: Art of Tao
Details about the artists themselves, the nonprofit beneficiaries, and the sponsors – along with the opportunity to donate – can be found on the event section of the 20/20 Media website.
Art of Tao, Daley Moving & Storage, and Jeff Hodges Landscaping have partnered with 20/20 Media for this event, and media partners include WTNH News 8, we-ha.com, West Hartford Magazine, Ledger Publications, West Hartford Chamber of Commerce, and Town of West Hartford.
Like what you see here? Click here to subscribe to We-Ha’s newsletter so you’ll always be in the know about what’s happening in West Hartford! Click the blue button below to become a supporter of We-Ha.com and our efforts to continue producing quality journalism.