Arts & Culture

Giraffe Sculptures Find Final Home After Multiple Relocations

Local art installation returns to Dilworth after getting kicked out of original two spots

Ben Parrish’s giraffe sculptures in their new home on East Boulevard. (Photo by Gavin West)

A pair of life-sized giraffe sculptures that stood on the corner of East Boulevard and Lyndhurst Avenue for much of 2021 have recently returned to their original grazing grounds in Dilworth. They are now located in the median strip that runs down the middle of East Boulevard near where East intersects Lyndhurst.

Designed and created by sculptor Ben Parrish of Steel Design Studios, a local metal shop, and commissioned by Charlotte architect and developer David Furman, these giraffe sculptures received an enthusiastic reception in Dilworth when Parrish first installed them on a corner lot owned by Furman.

“I wanted to give them a sense of movement, and sense of fluidity,” Parrish told Queen City Nerve when they were first installed, unaware of just how much movement the giraffes would actually see.

When a new tenant moved into the building situated on the lot, the tenant wanted to put their business sign on the exact spot occupied by the giraffes. This development marked the beginning of what Furman called “the giraffe saga.”

Furman arranged for Parrish to remove the giraffes from their original location and reinstall them at Wilmore Centennial Park, a small pocket park that Furman helped create on South Tryon Street in South End.

Since Furman played such an important role in the establishment of the park, he felt he could continue to add to the park’s attractions, though the park had since passed into the ownership of Mecklenburg County Park & Rec.

Furman found a perfect spot in the park for the giraffes, but he never asked official permission to install the giraffes in the park. For about six months, they remained undisturbed in their new location, until May 2022 when Mecklenburg County officials asked that the giraffes be removed.

Once again, Parrish showed up and took the giraffe sculptures down, this time moving them into storage.

Furman received several offers from people who wanted to provide the giraffes with new homes, but Furman felt the giraffes should be displayed “in the public realm.”

Two giraffe sculptures on East Boulevard in Charlotte
The giraffe sculptures were installed on the median on East Boulevard with permission from the city. (Photo by Gavin West)

“I wanted them to have a permanent home in Dilworth,” he told Queen City Nerve.

Learning from past experience, he ensured he would obtain official permission before asking Parrish to install the giraffes for a third time.

Furman contacted Valerie Preston, then the president of the Dilworth Community Association, and she agreed to help Furman find a place in Dilworth for the giraffes. Even after her term as president came to an end, she continued to advocate on behalf of Furman and the giraffes.

Working together, Furman and Preston succeeded in getting an easement from the city of Charlotte to install the giraffe sculptures in the median on East Boulevard, just feet from their original location. As Furman said, “It’s as if the giraffes just walked across the street.”

Parrish was thrilled when Furman shared the news with him.

“I always felt that the giraffes belonged in Dilworth,” Parrish said.

Installing the giraffe sculptures in the median presented Parrish with challenges. He could not bring in a crane that would block traffic, so he ended up building a temporary tripod complete with pulleys and used the jury-rigged system to lift the giraffes into place.

One of the giraffes is 17 feet high, and Parrish could barely hoist the giraffe up to this height.

The process of installing the giraffe sculptures attracted a lot of attention from people in the neighborhood, but Parrish was pleased with their responses.

“People waved at me and told me how much they missed the giraffes,” he said.

After the giraffes were in place, Parrish overheard an onlooker say to the giraffes, “Welcome home.”

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