'Canstruction' site puts focus on hunger in city
If it's Thanksgiving, then it's time for Snoopy, even in can-sculpture form. (Photos: Ivonne Snavely)
By Ivonne Snavely
Special to amNewYork
A giant rat on a hunger strike picketed next to a full-bellied Snoopy. Just around the corner, Michael Phelps came up for air as he swam some laps.
Oh, and one more thing: All of these sculptures are made of cans full of food 161,000 of them to be exact, painstakingly designed and stacked by 40 teams of engineers and architects competing in the annual pre-Thanksgiving canstruction competition at the Winter Garden in lower Manhattan.
The teams began work at dinnertime Wednesday and finished around dawn Thursday. Or at least most of them did. At midmorning, at least one straggler was still there, repairing a portion of a baseball-stadium sculpture that had toppled.
Leah Kaplan, who took part in the competition for 14 years and now helps to run it, stood in front of a model of Giant Stadium taller than she is.
It is a lot of work, but I luckily didnt have to stay here until the bitter end, she said, laughing as she described the previous nights construction frenzy. There were teams everywhere, cans here and there and the last team didnt leave until 5 oclock this morning.
The high-concept Michael Phelps canstruction ...
New York City joined more than 100 cities across North America this year in holding the event, which is meant to raise public awareness of hunger and contributions for local food banks.
The sculptures will be on display through Dec. 2, after which all of the canned goods used in the structures will be donated to City Harvest for distribution to food pantries, soup kitchens, elderly and day care centers.
Between natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires and then of course the economic crisis, food pantries need help more than ever, said Kaplan.
The rules of the competition are simple. No glue or magnets are allowed and tape must be kept to a minimum. This way it will be easier to take apart the cans for donation.
Each piece of art also had a name that had to do with cans or hunger and a description of it. For instance, a sign next to a shark with open jaws proclaimed, No need to fear, but make no mistake, this one will attack hunger. And with his claws of canned chocolate syrup and tail of pink soda cans, Scrabby the red rat stood firm with his Strike Against Hunger sign.
Another sculpture shaped like a bridge was called the AlasCAN Bridge to Nowhere, and was made up of cans of Beefaroni, stewed tomatoes, black beans and coconut milk.
AlasCAN Bridge to Nowhere actually does span the divide and bridges the gap between hunger and health right here in NYC, said a sign in front of it., adding that it was a healthy pork-barrel item. A Sarah Palin doll stood on the bridge, waving.
Im going to take a picture of this. This is so cute, said John Manages, from Venezuela, while aiming his camera phone at another sculpture.
Within the first two hours after the exhibit opened yesterday, there were about 100 visitors. Peter Panchav of Merrill Lynch stood looking at the sculpture of Michael Phelps, whose head jutted out from a platform of bottled water, his nose made up of red cans and his swimming goggles and cap of black cans.
Panchav said he did not know what the can art was about, but that he thought it looked "amazing."
Admission is free, but visitors are encouraged to bring a donation of canned goods.