Having been let go from my job thanks to COVID-19, I’ve been actively pursuing my dream of having a career in journalism. One thing I’m learning is that not every piece I write will be published, and that’s okay. The main thing is to keep the fingers pecking away. That may be a pun for this first unpublished piece I’d like to share with you from the heart of Louisville, KY.
Birds of All Kinds of Feathers Flock Together
By Andrew Toy
As you’re strolling along the Ohio River, you expect to see ducks, and maybe even a seagull or two. But chickens? Hens? Not necessarily, because you’re not in deep Kentucky. You’re just yards away from the bustling downtown Louisville.
And yet, kitty-corner from the Louisville Slugger Field, you’re going to find a group of barnyard birds grouped together on an area of red pebbles. They’re steel models, spray-painted in a wild variety of colors and styles. The tallest stands around 9-feet tall, resembling a mash-up of a rooster and a giraffe, with it’s long yellow neck, speckled with black spots. One stumpy rooster stands about three feet tall with its red comb standing on top of his head, which is also three feet tall. And don’t be alarmed by the two-headed goose – it’s the six-headed goose that you might want to steer clear of.
Whether they compliment your art taste or not, the children surely love running through and around the poultry sculptures. And who’s idea was this? It was Louisville’s Mayor David Armstrong (1999-2003) who said, “Public art is more than an amenity in the streetscapes and open spaces in our city. It evokes pride and awe in our city from passers-by, and it is a gift to every citizen.”
And so, it was the legendary folk artist Marvin Finn’s wooden birds that were selected as the artwork to be displayed. Having learned woodworking from the hip of his father, Finn’s stardom was birthed in 1972 after he showed his artwork in an exhibit at the Kentuckiana Hobby and Gift Show. Over the next decade, he would become a Louisville staple, and from there, a legend.
If art is a reflection of us, then what is this garden of funny sculptures saying? Do they just exist for the same reason as Saturday morning cartoons – to entertain small minds, and help to blindly pass time?
Or is there something else here we can learn from this Flock of Finns? They’re certainly funny looking, but they’re also diverse. From roosters, to hens, to chicks, and geese, and some that look like other animals, like the giraffe.
Nestled between the happy screams of children playing on the large lawn by the waterfront, and the screams and cheers from the ball field across the street, and – most recently – the chaos and rioting that has taken place just a few short blocks down the road, these chickens – diverse in every way – have stood together through it all. Quietly, peacefully, but always standing, never resting, no matter the circumstance or the weather. Always together. Like birds of a feather.
No matter what color the feather.