Newport Beach bunny sculptures stir a hare-raising tale
NEWPORT BEACH – Here, in a city of privilege and, apparently, spare time, the fight of the moment is about …
Not real bunnies; artistically rendered bunnies. And money. And taste.
At issue are 16 concrete cottontails, known in town simply as “The Bunnies.” For the past year, the 4- to 8-foot tall sculptures have, with their painted pastel eyes, kept watch over the ocean-view grounds around City Hall.
The bunny sculptures also have given birth (not literally) to an anti-bunny Facebook page, many pro-bunny Instagram photos and plenty of commentary (both pro and anti-bunny) on sites such as Instagram and Pinterest. The bunnies have a Twitter hashtag, #NBBunnies.
Some are bummed about the bunnies’ cost – $221,000. Haters call that a waste of tax dollars. Some also call the bunnies’ circular configuration “bunny-henge.” A local blogger who writes about parks has termed them “bizarre.”
Others see the bunnies differently.
Last Halloween, the city’s public relations consultant, whose contract didn’t call for bunny publicity per se, tweeted: “Dress up your kids in their Halloween costumes and come take their pics with the #NBBunnies.”
That seemed to rally the pro-bunny forces. And the bunnies responded by being model celebrities. They’ve stood still for countless photos and selfies. They’ve let youngsters crawl over them and tug at their lifeless ears. They’ve dressed in purple bows in support of Alzheimer’s research.
Still, the bunnies remain divisive.
Journalist and longtime resident Eric Longabardi poked fun at the bunnies on his Facebook page, “Newport Beach Bunny.”
He posted less-than-flattering bunny photos. He ran an informal naming contest. Among the suggestions: “Ring o’ Rabbits” and “Wascal Wabbits,” and, in an inexplicable nod to the city’s fire ring controversy, “The Invisible Fire Pit.”
“I thought the whole thing lent itself to absurdity,” Longabardi said.
City officials got a little defensive, and the city’s website includes an explanation.
“The Civic Center rabbit story is…” it begins.