Community Spotlight: ManneqART

By:  Al Scolnik – Executive Director of ManneqART

We are excited to present our 2015 artworks to the community at the big “reveal” on June 21 at Historic Savage Mill.

If you happened to be wandering around Columbia Mall last September, chances are you walked past the iconic first-level water fountain. And, if you did, you probably noticed 14 life-size mannequins dressed in a unique collection of sculptural, colorful, and memorable costumes. This was ManneqART, a two-year-old Howard County non-profit, whose goal is to bring “sculpture on the human form” to the art lovers of Howard County and the Baltimore-Washington community. In addition to those at the mall, nearly 100 other artworks were on display at 16 locations all over Howard County.

ManneqART is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit arts and education organization and competition based in Howard County that is focused on bringing the “wearable arts” to the public. Now starting its third year, its mission is to “inspire creativity and reward excellence in the field of wearable art.”

ManneqART reaches out to both beginning and accomplished artists of all ages and skill levels and invites them to think outside their comfort zones to create artworks unlike anything our community has seen.  ManneqART is patterned after the hugely successful “World of Wearable Arts” competition out of New Zealand, now in its 25th year, which typically attracts the best wearable art in the world and more than 50,000 wide-eyed visitors each year to Wellington, NZ. A gallery of more than 150 artworks created by ManneqART contestants from more than 30 states can be seen at manneqart.org.

Since ManneqART was founded in 2013 by New Zealand-turned-U.S. artist and fashion designer Lee Andersen of Columbia, it has become an anticipated annual Howard County arts event and a part of the Columbia Festival of the Arts. “Howard County is my home,” Andersen said, “so it was natural to launch ManneqART in Howard County.” Andersen’s organization has presented nearly 200 artworks to the community in the first two years. Last year’s entries included artworks from 19 states made of everything from metals and paper to spray foam and melted plastic bags. Awards totaling $10,000 were presented to artists in several categories at the ManneqART Awards Gala at Howard Community College in late September.

For 2015, ManneqART has entered into a partnership agreement with the Howard County Public Schools System to train students to create 3-dimensional, wearable art. At a March 28-29 workshop, accomplished wearable artists taught students how to work with materials, structure, and colors to create artworks for the 2015 competition. In addition to the student workshop, several other events are on the calendar:

  • JUNE 21: ManneqART Madness: Public introduction of the 2015 artworks at Historic Savage Mill.
  • SEPTEMBER 12–26: Public display of artworks at many locations around the county.
  • SEPTEMBER 27: Gala and stage show at the Horowitz Center for the Performing and Visual Arts at the Howard Community College campus in Columbia.

Of course, any new organization is challenged to build a following for its products and services and to establish a unique value proposition in the marketplace.  “This is an important year for ManneqART marketing, team building, and funding,” Andersen said. “We have the support of the county’s arts and community organizations—Howard County Arts Council, Columbia Association, Festival of the Arts, and the Community Foundation of Howard County have provided grants to help us get started. But our overriding desire is to win the hearts and minds of the community. With the public’s interest and support, the future is really bright and colorful for ManneqART.”

Art quality, complexity, and diversity are at the top of ManneqART’s “to-do” list for 2015. “We are excited to present our 2015 artworks to the community at the big ‘reveal’ on June 21 at Historic Savage Mill,” Andersen said, “and to show all of the artworks for two weeks—September 12–26—at multiple locations around the County.” For more information about ManneqART, email info@manneqart.org or call 301-725-5555.