Tigers have invaded downtown Fuquay-Varina.
Nine Bengal tiger statues, chosen for the Fuquay-Varina High School mascot, have been painted and installed outside downtown businesses as part of Tigers on Parade, the now annual public art display.
In other words, it’s what you get when you combined giant cats and local artists.
Some of the colorful statues, unveiled May 14, will be auctioned off this fall, while others were bought by their sponsors to stay permanently at their current locations.
Chelsea Konowski, the events and marketing director for the Fuquay-Varina Downtown Association, said the project has been a success since it began last year. The group hopes to continue the project in the future, adding tigers throughout downtown.
“This such a fun program and there’s so many ways for people to get involved with it,” she said.
The tigers even have their own hashtag, and people can post pictures of themselves with the tigers on social media with the hashtags “#fvdowntown” and “#fvroar.”
Each tiger – some abstract and artsy – has a source of inspiration behind it, a theme to guide the artist as he or she painted the animals.
One tiger is painted in memory of Sydney Kratowill, the 15-year-old niece of Fuquay-Varina couple Eric and Mary Christofferson who also own The Teacherage in Downtown, where it is displayed.
While Kratowill wasn’t from Fuquay-Varina, Konowski said, she visited frequently from her home in Wisconsin and spent time at her aunt and uncle’s business. She died from a brain tumor in January.
Kratowill’s family worked with Blair Hale, an art teacher at Fuquay-Varina High School, to focus the design on the aspects of the young girl’s life. Hale’s students worked together to paint the tiger, which includes a picture of Kratowill’s face surrounded by many different things she loved, such as basketball and hunting. A gray ribbon, which represents brain cancer, is painted around the tiger’s neck along with lyrics from Kratowill’s favorite song. The eyes are green, for Kratowill’s birthstone.
Flora Pinkham, whose tiger is outside of Mason Jar Tavern and is sponsored by the Downtown Patrons for the Arts, said she’s glad the project has had a positive effect on children in the community.
“Kids want to touch it, they want to take pictures with it,” she said. “I think it really inspires kids to think about the community as a fun, artistic place.”
Her tiger is a fusion of a tiger’s traditional black and orange stripes but with monarch butterflies fluttering away from the stripes. The idea came when she noticed the two different animals have very similar markings.
“The inspiration for it was just thinking about wanting to do something realistic, but also creative at the same time,” she said. “Butterflies have the same colors as the tiger, so I thought it’d be interesting to transform the tiger into the monarch butterflies.”
Blythe Quinn, who has lived in Fuquay-Varina for 10 years, painted a tiger to go outside the Glittery Frog Boutique. It’s sponsored by Johnson Pond Learning Center, which is where her daughter attended pre-school.
“They were so sweet, such a good pre-school,” she said. “And we were super excited to do it.”
She centered the painting around discovering nature, which is a big part of Johnson Pond’s mission for children. She thought of what her daughter’s time was like at the school, and included nature scenes on the body of the tiger. A baloon represents the hot-air balloon festival that recently took place in Fuquay-Varina, and there’s a nighttime scene that Quinn said represents how we should “continue to explore nature from day to night.”
“When you’re painting for somebody,” she said. “You try to think of a larger audience of what people would like.”
Her tiger was bought by Johnson Pond and won’t be auctioned off. Four of the nine tigers will be auctioned at the FVDA’s annual Chili Cook-Off on Nov. 5.
Paige Connelly: 919-460-2609; @pconnellly
A map of the tigers’ locations can be found at fuquay-varinadowntown.com.