Words by Chelsea Hess- Moore
This summer, downtown Harrisburg is filled with an abundance of creative expression through blasts of colors, hand-drawn designs and 15 large ducks swarming the streets throughout the city. In previous years, Central Pennsylvania residents and visitors have been able to enjoy the displays of the 2003 Cow Parade followed by last year’s Dino-Mite Summer, featuring painted dinosaurs. Artists from the area showed their talents by decorating the statues with their visions, which were then displayed for a few weeks throughout the city for all to see.
For this year’s theme, Harrisburg got a little more slippery with an armada of 48-inch-tall, fiberglass ducks, all painted differently to reflect the creativity of the artists that were chosen this year. Discover the Ducks Downtown is an initiative organized by the Harrisburg Downtown Improvement District (DID). Various events were hosted in support of this, including a Duck Race to kick off the first day of summer. All funds raised from the duck race were donated to the Harrisburg Fire Department.
The duck project is made possible through sponsorships for each duck, and Harrisburg Magazine is thrilled to be the sponsor of the duck that was decorated by the staff at Brain Vessel Gallery in Mechanicsburg. For Brain Vessel’s CEO/Creative Director Douglas Koozer, participating in this event is something he has wanted to do for a long time and finally acted on the chance to make it happen.
“I think the Downtown Ducks are awesome,” says Koozer. “Every time I saw the cows and saw the dinosaurs, I always thought how I never hear about this in time. So, it was just kind of one of those things where it’s like here is our opportunity and I didn’t want to be sitting afterward saying we didn’t have the time to do it and we didn’t take on the opportunity, but I wish we would have. Now, we can say that we did.”
Completing the task was far from a simple feat. Brain Vessel is a thriving business that is growing rapidly and has a lot going on in the normal day-to-day activities.
“I think of Brain Vessel as an incubator combining branding, marketing and art,” explains Koozer. “We are a marketing company that has a passion for art. I come from a company of artists and so does my business partner, Jason. It was something that was imbedded in me and kind of supported by my family. I thought it was a good opportunity to combine the two.”
Acquiring new artists to represent, opening an additional building to their location and hosting events for showcasing artists and materials are just a few of the things that are currently going on at Brain Vessel. But aside from the already busy schedule, Koozer still decided to take the idea of submitting artwork for the Downtown Ducks to his team.
“On June 6th, we were tagged in a post on Facebook,” says Koozer. “You had to have the artwork submitted by the 8th. You were told on the 9th if you got one and you could pick up the ducks as early as the 10th. Finally, you had to have them done and turned in by the 23rd. So it was a super tight deadline and we are running a business.”
The opportunity was present, the whole team was on board and willing to help and it just so happened that two interns were starting with the Brain Vessel staff that week, which was even more of a plus. So, the team submitted two designs and on the 9th of June, got the word that they were chosen as one of the 15 artists to have a featured duck. Next came the fun part – bringing their drawing from their submission to reality.
On the Discover the Ducks Downtown map, the Brain Vessel team’s duck is titled “Yellow Duckarine” and is listed as “painted by Douglas Koozer and Brain Vessel Crew.” The duck is reflective of The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine. Koozer is a big fan of the Las Vegas show that pays tribute to this album and with a recent trip to see it for what was his fourth time, it was definitely an influence in the decision for the theme.
“I wanted to go a little bit farther in the creative process rather than just a visual,” explains Koozer. “It started out as being really elaborate, but couldn’t be with the time restraints and dry times of paint and stuff that we were utilizing.”
Regardless of the original plan, the detail that still went into the duck and what the team was able to pull off is nowhere shy of impressive. Glow-in-the-dark ducks inside the sculpture’s eyes, a full periscope in the center, a backup solar-powered light and individual caricatures of ducks, one drawn by each artist that was involved in the process.
“We each did a caricature of our own characters on the duck,” he says. “So in each window, you will see my wife and myself as ducks, my business partner Jason, all of the interns, every single individual on there that put a stroke on it. My daughter even has a duck. She will be 12 and she is part of the team, too. There were nine total people on there.”
Hard work and collaboration was the key to finishing the project. Despite the original plans being too elaborate for such a short timeframe, Koozer is still happy to have been a part of the experience.
“In a nutshell, we got it done on time, we got it delivered and it was a fun project,” he says. “It was also a fun team builder because we all had to work together on the timeline and we also had to get our other stuff done. So the job here was client work and then this was second priority, but still a priority. It was really good for our team.”
With his goal of participating in an activity such as Discover the Ducks Downtown, Koozer also had another motive behind this contribution of artwork, and it involved more than just paint and designs.
“The other reason that we did it aside from something creative and getting other people involved is there is a divide,” he explains. “There’s the east shore/west shore thing. I don’t understand it and if it exists still or not. But we wanted to earn our street creds there. We wanted to get out there and get the word out there.”
Koozer feels that him and his crew did just that. He has heard a great outpouring of support from clients and friends that have seen the duck downtown, which is located at 2nd and Walnut Streets right in front of the visitor’s center.
His goals were to participate in this opportunity and build a reputation for his west shore business beyond the boundaries that are perceived and believed.
“We pulled a lot of people from this area to go over,” says Koozer. “People were posting pictures around the duck and it was cool. Customers that went down that day to the duck race, clients of ours went there to support us. Getting our artists involved and more exposure for them, I think that’s the direction. Letting local people know that there is really cool talent around here.”