The Coat-Hanger Giraffe

by Susan Basquin

SFAOL Contributor

Gib Singleton Giraffe
Gib Singleton Giraffe

Although Salvador Perez Park on St. Francis Drive does not support the vegetation favored by animals of the African savannah, a giraffe is there to nibble the resident trees. Citizens need not fear for the animal's health, however, because the giraffe is a 15-foot-high painted metal sculpture, designed for the delight of children and passers-by.

From the front, the welded-steel giraffe seems to be coming to an abrupt halt, with one foot out to brace itself. From the side, the long-necked creature prances or struts-or perhaps paws the ground. And up there on top, its placid head and expressionless face suggest a reassuring steadiness.

The metal giraffe is the design of Santa Fe sculptor and SFAOL.com artist Gib Singleton, and the placement in the park was the project of SFAOL.com president Stan Evans. But the inspiration for the piece was Singleton's 7-year-old daughter Alexis.

Singleton remembers that he had just made a small, coat-hanger model of a stylized giraffe when his daughter asked him to make it life-size and sturdy. "Then we could play on it," she said. So Singleton made a 12-inch-high version, but did not know how to proceed with a larger one, because life-size giraffes cost a great deal, in materials alone.

Singleton asked his friend Stan Evans, a longtime Santa Fe Realtor, to give an opinion. Evans brought his6-year-old daughter Kylene along. She was immediately entranced. "She had a fit over it," Singleton recalled. It was the delight of the two daughters that convinced Singelton and Evans that the giraffe should be in a park, for children to enjoy.

Evans then went to Sylvia and Dale Ball, owners of the Bank of Santa Fe, who provided about $4,000 for materials, installation and transportation. He next got the approval of the city Arts Board, with the support of gallery owner Forrest Fenn. "Sculpture in the parks is the kind of thing we need to have more of," Fenn said.

Evans then sought someone who could transform the design into a life-size version. A friend, Curtiss Beevers, had the know-how, but Evans was embarrassed to bring this snall project to someone who made his living erecting frameworks for large buildings. "I went to him hat in hand," Evans recalled, "but his response came in half a minute."

"I kind of like to do these things from time to time," Beevers said. "It's a challenge, and that's what you need these days." He then logged about 100 hours on the project.

Using a hydraulic machine, Beevers bent 2-inch steel pipe to make the curves of the giraffe. "I'd do something," he said, "and if I didn't like it I'd straighten it out and do it over. All I had to go by was my eye and the model. This work takes years of experience."

The completed 400-pound giraffe, painted white with large brown spots, was first erected in Evans' back yard. "As soon as it was up," said Singleton, "the kids jumped on it like bees on honey. It wasn't even anchored. We had to hold it down while they climbed it."

In Salvador Perez Park, however, the giraffe is anchored in concrete and is not used as a "Jungle Jym," for insurance reasons. It has a fence around it, and is strictly for viewing.

But whether for playing on or viewing, the sculpture has delighted many people, including its creator. "I've never really done art for children," Singleton said, "and I'm getting the biggest bang out of it."

Check out Gib Singleton's art in the SFAOL.com Store, and get SFAOL.com President Stan Evans' messages on the Home Page.

To order writer Susan Basquin's new book "Goat Song," visit Amazon.com.


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