Volume 16 • Issue 53 | May 28 - June 3, 2004

Painting more than an apple a day

By Janel Bladow

Downtown Express photo by Elisabeth Robert

Artist Mary Fragapane puts the finishing touches on her apple design at the Big Apple Fest Design Studio in the Seaport. At least 300 apples will be displayed throughout the city starting Aug. 15.

There’s more than one big apple on Front St. – in fact, dozens of 4-foot apples have sprouted up in a South St. Seaport storefront and are getting painted and polished for the annual Big Apple Fest.

From now through the end of July, artists working at the Big Apple Fest Design Studio, 192 Front St., are busily brushing on their designs. Once the 300 apples are ripe and ready, they’ll be planted around Manhattan in plazas, lobbies and store windows. They’ll hit the streets and shops in time for the annual two-month long celebration of the city which kicks off on August 15.

This is the first year the super-sized New York City symbol gets the designer touch and it’s already a smash, said Jon Clay, Big Apple Fest managing director and founder.

“The response has been great,” Clay said. “We had the Chicago cows here and they brought in lots of tourist money for the city but cows aren’t New York City. The Big Apple is.”

Artist Peter Vario of Mineola, Long Island, is spending weekends and free time painting his apple titled “Lasting Spirit.” The giant plastic fruit has a patriotic New York theme featuring the World Trade Center towers, the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, all capped with the stars and stripes. He’s using several different painting styles to express himself.

“I think it speaks for itself,” Vario said. “I want to capture New York City in the styles of our many different artists.” The painter submitted six different designs and was thrilled that “Lasting Spirit” was selected.

Other artists working one afternoon last week were taking big bites out of their apple projects.

One is midway through a golden apple with a firefighter theme. Ringing the base are portraits of the city’s Bravest performing duties from putting out fires to climbing ladders to rescuing a stranded child. Fire trucks and a Dalmatian wearing a chief’s hat round out the scene.

Another apple celebrates the city’s artistic side with larger-than-life comedy and tragedy masks, movie cameras and marquees.

The 44-inch wide apples also come in clear acrylic which sculptors can fill. The finished apples will be bolted to a 400-pound cement base.

Artists earn $1,500 for painting each apple. But it isn’t just the money that draws them to the project. The fun comes from working in a communal setting where visitors can stop by and watch their giant apples blossom.

People are invited to drop by the Front St. studio Wednesday to Sunday afternoons through July. The New York Mercantile Exchange Charitable Foundation is sponsoring the 2,500-square-foot public studio as well as a mini orchard of three big apples.

But festival organizers are still looking for a few more good apples. Sponsors, that is.

“We have 300 apples and 500 registered designs, we now need more corporate and individual sponsors for the apples,” Clay said.

Sponsors range from big companies to small restaurants. Apples cost $8,500 to sponsor and will be put up for auction in November at Sotheby’s, including a live Internet auction. Apples can be bought outright for $12,500.

“We have a small bakery sponsoring an apple for $8,500. We now need more big companies to open their checkbooks,” Clay said.

Apple purchases are tax deductible and the funds raised go to three city charities: NYC & Company Foundation, Police Athletic League and City Harvest.

“We chose these three charities because they all say the Big Apple,” Clay said. “City Harvest was selected because apples are food and City Harvest helps support people in dire need of food. P.A.L. because we want to reach kids, in fact, we’re giving P.A.L. 20 apples to paint to get kids involved in the fun. And, NYC & Company Foundation prompts tourism in the Big Apple and tourism generates millions for the city so here’s a way to give something back.

“There will be a lot of media attention on New York City with the Republican Convention here this August. It’s a chance for the Big Apple to shine.”

For more information on the colossal apples or Big Apple Fest, check out their Web site at www.bigapplefest.org.

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