Procession Progression

A decade of animal attractions

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Every May, downtown Bellingham becomes a zoo—in the best kind of way. Every since the first Procession of the Species 10 years ago, the community has lined up to show its animal nature. Artist Christian Anne Smith was on hand at workshops last weekend, and will be again this weekend, as one of the creative types who wants to help bring your vision to life—and take it to the streets come May 4. We caught up with her to find out more.

Cascadia Weekly: How many years have you been involved with the Procession of the Species?
Christian Anne Smith: I’ve lost track, but it was years before my son was born and he is four now. I started off volunteering, and before I knew it, I found myself building seven-foot gorillas and helping others piece together magnificent creations out of random junk and imagination.

CW: What is it about Bellingham’s parade that makes you happy?
CAS: I love to see all ages being creative together.  So often an adult will come in to work on a costume for their child and end up getting caught up in the excitement too. The parade is a testament to this; the complexity of the creations vary from a simple cardboard cheetah mask on a three year old to a 25-foot whale with a bicycle inside! I love how joyous people are in what they have created.

CW: What have some of your prior costumes been?
CAS: I was a seven-foot gorilla in a hot pink tutu for several years—each consecutive year I added more body parts!  I have been a firebird, a “stroller beast” alligator dragon and a Luna moth in a fancy top hat.

CW: You facilitated a workshop last weekend. What was a highlight?
CAS: A whole family came in, and set straight to work on their own costumes, each age just as excited as the other. They had such a playful attitude, and I loved that the parents were modeling for their child that invention and fun are for all ages.

CW: You say you can help people make their “animal dreams come true.” Please elaborate.
CAS: I think most of us have some animal we feel a kinship to. The Procession is meant to honor animals, which is very important. I believe to honor the human animal, it is important to put one’s self in touch with one’s own personal archetypes. What animal do you love and dream of? What could be more therapeutic than to try building it and walking in its shoes?

CW: Your own art is so colorful and has a definite sense of the magical and mysterious. Do you think this aesthetic carries over when you’re making your costume?
CAS: I find that anything I create comes from the same wild and colorful land. Much like I can’t help put my animal-ness in my human characters, I seem to put my humanness into my animal creations. Lucieda, Protector of the Northern Forests, is a fierce, fairy-like wearable puppet I created for the Procession. She has a human face, with fox ears and deer hooves encircling her head, and a 10-foot train to her dress, to be carried by tiny woodland creatures.

CW: What kind of materials should people bring to the workshops on April 27-28?
CAS: Just bring you! We will do the rest.



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