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Leaping Lizards

Lizart infests downtown Orlando

Published: Tuesday, February 6, 2001

Updated: Sunday, February 15, 2009 19:02


Adam Shiver/Central Florida Future


Adam Shiver/Central Florida Future

Huge lizards, of various shapes, colors and sizes, have invaded downtown Orlando.

No it’s not a scene out of a bad Japanese monster movie, but rather, LizArt, a project to benefit the local arts and charities of Orlando. LizArt began popping up downtown in October of 2000 through the efforts of Mayor Glenda Hood.

An auction will be held, following a showing of all of the lizards, later this year. The larger portion of the monies collected by the auction will go to Orlando’s local arts while the other portion will go to the charity of choice of the LizArt sponsors.

“They will be auctioned off in December of this year,” said Maryann Cummings, an Arts and Marketing Intern at City Hall. “We haven1t decided where they will be auctioned off yet.”

Companies from across Orlando sponsor the yearlong event by purchasing lizards, either decorated or undecorated. An undecorated piece of LizArt goes for $2,800 while one, already decorated by a local artisan sells for $3,800.

There are currently 60 LizArt displays all around the downtown area, with more being put up in the coming year.

Some of the companies that are already participating in the project are Universal Studios, the Courtyard Marriott downtown, Orlando International Airport, CityWalk, Bear University, City Beverages, Disney and more.

"Universal has contributed over $100,000," Cummings said.

On top of raising money for the arts and charity, the project is intended to promote the downtown area. The project has drawn many people downtown to view these works of art. In fact many people like them so much they can't wait for the auction in December.

In January, Loiue LeTour, a “tourist” lizard, was stolen from downtown. The thieves cut him from his base and made off with him. Vandalism is a regular occurrence.

“It has happened since the beginning since they hit the streets,” Cummings said. “They just replaced one that was knocked over by a drunk guy. He went to hug it, and knocked it over and destroyed it.”

The repair costs for the lizards is unknown as of right now, due to the fact that repairs have just begun. The repairs are not expected to drive up the cost of the lizards at auction time.

“[Orlando] might do frogs in the future” to raise more money for the arts Cummings said. “Miami is going to be doing Flamingos, and other cities in Florida will probably follow.”

Cities such as Chicago, New Orleans and Zurich, where the idea originated, have raised millions for the arts programs through projects much like this one. “She [Hood] saw a similar project, thought it was a great idea and knew we had to do it here,” Cummings said.

Cummings is a University of Central Florida Intern with City Hall. As a marketing major, Cummings job is to market the LizArt, getting sponsors to buy and display the lizards, as well as writing copy about the Lizards. She also designs promotional ideas to keep the public interested.

Some such ideas are trivia contests through local radio stations. Prizes would include free LizArt merchandise such as T-shirts and posters. Another idea being kicked around is to have a local gift-store downtown sell and promote LizArt merchandise. The profits would go towards the local arts as well.

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