On Saturday April 13, 2024, RCE joined Roanoke’s broader arts community for a joyful (if windy!) day of connection and fun as we paraded handmade art down Market Street and then gathered for a celebration in Elmwood Park.

The Roanoke Cultural Endowment had the privilege of collaborating with the Roanoke Arts Commission, as well as other local arts & cultural organizations to create and parade art together.

More than Just a Parade

Few events offer such a unique, intentional opportunity to build relationships through art as does the Daisy Art Parade. And this focus on encouraging social connection comes by no accident. Community building is integral to the Parade’s foundational principles.

In the post-pandemic landscape, local artist Brian Counihan wanted to bring Roanokers together through making and celebrating art. And an annual parade on the closest Saturday to UNESCO World Art Day featuring handmade or locally made art and costumes, seemed a perfect way to unite our community through the connective power of art.

Roanoke Celebrates World Art Day

World Art Day celebrations “reinforce the links between artistic creations and society” and that is exactly what the Daisy Art Parade does (UNESCO website). The Daisy Art Parade is founded on the belief that making art brings people together and that an annual Art parade nurtures opportunities to “build community [in Roanoke] and help [Roanoke] communities have common purpose with their neighbors” (Daisy Art Parade Website). The Daisy Art Parade seeks to harness the collective energy and social goodwill of activities such as barn-raising and apply that to a creative context. And the Parade’s guidelines promote community connection building.

All parade-entries come in the form of groups called Krewes. Krewes may be small and mighty or large with many hands to share the work. They may represent neighborhood associations, local organizations or social clubs, school groups, and so much more. Or, in the case of the Arts Connect Krewe (the RCE’s group), they can embody Roanoke’s more than two dozen arts and cultural organizations!

Each Krewe pools their creative abilities and energies to come up with a theme to encompass their parade entry. They then coordinate to establish a workshop schedule prior to the parade where they come together in a common space, make art, and work towards bringing their ideas to life.

Arts Connect Krewe

The Roanoke Cultural Endowment and Roanoke Arts Commission collaborated to organize more than a dozen workshops for the Arts Connect Krewe in the months leading up to the Daisy Art Parade.

In preparation for last year’s inaugural Daisy Art Parade, the Arts Connect Krewe was fortunate enough to use Brian Counihan’s own workshop space (as well as his paper-mache expertise) to create our own mini-colony of bumble bees. The bees exemplified our theme: fall in love through the arts.

This year, our Krewe began meeting to create art for this year’s parade. We had “fallen in love” with last year’s Arts Connect Krewe theme. And much like the rest of the Daisy Art Parade, we were in expansion mode.

Our Krewe’s fall in love through the arts theme found its inspiration in Cole Porter’s 1928 song “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love;” and this time around, we decided to lean into the lyrics of that source material. Throughout the song, Porter makes the argument for falling in love by highlighting several different animals and sea critters getting smitten with each other. This year, the Arts Connect Krewe was on a mission to represent more than two dozen nonprofit cultural organizations connecting our community every day by creating paper-mache versions of Porter’s creatures in lovey-dovey pairs.

We already had the bees . . . now all we needed were birds, educated fleas, lazy Jellyfish, Oysters from Oyster Bay, Goldfish in their bowls, Cape cod code clams, etc. . . .  

Lyrics to Cole Porter's "Let's Do it, Let's Fall in Love"

It’s All About the Process

At core, the Daisy Art Parade is more than just an event, it’s also the process that gets you to that event. The Daisy Art Parade may itself be, well, a parade; but the Daisy Art Parade experience is so much more. It’s about gathering people of different backgrounds, interests, and expertise who all live in the same community and giving them the opportunity to use their creativity in a casual, unrestrictive way.

This year, the Arts Connect Krewe experienced the connective power of parade-artmaking firsthand. There is a different kind of conversation that occurs over the paper-mache paste bucket than the water cooler or the PTA fundraiser meeting.

As you’re figuring out how to fashion birds from wire tomato cages or convert two of last-year’s bees into this-year’s mortar-board-donning educated fleas; as you ask if you can steady the clam shells as they’re being painted or help stabalize the giant inflatable shark as it’s getting coated with yet another layer paper-mache; as you ask again and again “how can I help?,”— you start to develop bonds with your fellow parade-artists in a way you might not anywhere else.

Arts Connect Krewe 2024 workshop photos.

Building Community by Making Art

Artmaking is often an individual experience, one defined by personal space and personal ownership. But the Daisy Art Parade approaches art and the process of making it from a more inclusive lens. Krewes and the dynamic of collective artmaking allows the pressure of the perfect, art-worthy “final product” to take a backseat. The focus, instead, becomes the process itself and the tactile joy of artmaking.

The collective nature of Krewe-based artmaking also means that responsibility for ultimate creations falls on no one person. And, as culpability for the final product gets spread amongst so many hands, everyone is freed up to be their most creative and collaborative selves. Having traditional “art skills” or feeling fully confident you “know what you’re doing” aren’t requirements, which renders some of the most common hangups about art-making immaterial.

Over our multi-month Daisy Art Parade preparation process, each of our Arts Connect Krewe workshops assembled a different cohort of people: staff from local arts and cultural organizations, Roanoke Arts Commissioners, dance students, friends, and family. With this continual changing of the guard, there was also a continual passing of the baton.

With each workshop, the group present picked up the work wherever the last group had left it and built upon it, making the critters a little bit of their own, and continuing the work forward for the next group to add their own touches. No one person was responsible for everything, and yet everyone who participated shared part-ownership in our Krewe’s work.

The beautiful part about the Daisy Art Parade, is the art each Krewe ultimately brings to the parade, is a reflection of all the individuals who helped bring the piece into being. Every mark, stroke of paint, and piece of paper-mache came from somewhere and someone. And whether or not that person is present at the parade, all of us, everyone who helped to build, paint, carry, or watch, is an integral part of the Daisy Art Parade.

Healing through Adaptation

After years of Pandemic where “masking” and “Quarantine” became all too common in the societal vernacular, the Daisy Art Parade promotes the restorative power of art. It provides our community a chance to find the “purpose and healing” art brings even “when our lives are stressful” (Daisy Art Parade Website).

And the Arts Connect Krewe certainly found this to be the case. Though the faces present changed over the course of each workshop, the sentiment that this art-making space was a haven within the struggles of everyday life became a recurring refrain. Again, and again different Krewe members at different workshops shared not only how much they enjoyed the workshops, but how this opportunity to make art in an open, friendly environment left them feeling serene and restored.

The Daisy Art Parade pushes its Krewes to lean into adaptation and flexibility. As we neared the parade date, the Arts Connect Krewe gradually and with a good deal of effort brought 2 (enormous and very conically headed) birds, 2 adorable bumble bees, 2 mortar-board-donning educated flees, 2 fabulously colorful lazy jellyfish (and their many lazy jellfish babies), 2 gorgeous oysters with room for a human pearl (the heads of the people wearing the shells), and 2 wide-eyed, hysterically cute clams to life.

Collage of Arts Connect Krewe 2024 Daisy Art Parade paper-mache creations.

The Arts Connect Krewe’s workshop series was a constant learning process. Every workshop presented its own masterclass in going-with-the-flow and creative problem-solving. And every workshop, the wonderfully unique group of minds present solved the problems that arose were solved a their own individual flair.

The Arts Connect Egghead

Tying the Arts Connect Krewe’s little menagerie together was our giant, blue Arts Connect Egghead crowned with a star and decorated with the logos of all the Star City’s arts and cultural organizations.

Our Krewe was fortunate to receive one of Brian Counihan’s paper-mache “eggheads” that he shared with different Parade Krewes this year to create a thematic through-line across the Daisy Art Parade line-up. All Egghead sculptures connected back to Brian’s own parade centerpiece, an enormous chicken.

In true Daisy Art Parade fashion, our Arts Connect Egghead not only helped us showcase the individual arts and cultural organizations our Krewe represents, but also sparked our creativity about the overall structure of our parade entry. The Arts Connect Egghead seemed to us the perfect pied piper for our little zoo of parade-art. What better way to encourage everyone at the parade to fall in love through the arts than by playing Cole Porter’s melodic song?

We were very lucky to enlist the help of local musician and Roanoke Arts Commission member, William Penn to record a version of Cole Porter’s “Let’s Do It” for us to play as we processed down the street during the parade. Finally, we created a large, blue hand with a microphone to add to the effect that our Egghead itself was singing!

Arts Connect Egghead photo collage.

A Joyful Day

After all our hard work, it was a true joy to see the Daisy Art Parade in its full glory on April 13. With 40 Krewes participating, the Daisy Art Parade represented the amazing diversity of Roanoke voices through their art. As Krewes arrived to take their place in the parade line-up, the grey, windswept landscape of Norfolk Avenue transformed into a boisterous, vivid throng of people, colorful parade art, and fantastic costumes!

Despite the gusty weather forecast (not a friend to lightweight artistic creations), the Daisy Art Parade Krewes took the challenges of the day as an opportunity to display our fine-tuned problem-solving skills. They adapted to the day’s needs and got creative about how to keep our parade art tethered to the ground.

The joyful feeling of community was palpable as Brian Counihan’s whistle sounded the beginning of the parade! As all 40 Krewes made their way down Market Street and through the Elmwood Art Walk to the amphitheater, downtown Roanoke was filled with a myriad sea of exuberant parade art and smiling faces.

Photos from the 2024 Daisy Art Parade.

We are so grateful to everyone who joined the Arts Connect Krewe in creating and parading art for this year’s Daisy Art Parade! And we are so thankful for everyone who came to watch the parade and participate in the Elmwood Park festivities that followed. April 13th, 2024 was a day to remember as everyone’s hard work and participation brought art to our streets and optimism to our community.  

RCE Impact

As the RCE builds our endowment fund, we’re actively seeking ways to advocate for and embolden Roanoke’s arts and cultural sector. For us, The Daisy Art Parade offers not only a touchstone community engagement event, but also a unique opportunity to foster connections amongst the arts and cultural nonprofits to which RCE will one day provide operating grants.

The arts and cultural sector (much like our community as a whole) is better off when we work together. And, at the RCE, we believe collaborations that promote a sense of community within Roanoke’s arts and cultural nonprofit organizations will only strengthen the arts sector as a whole.

Roanoke Cultural Endowment envisions a dynamic future for Roanoke’s arts and cultural nonprofits where collaborative relationships clear the way for luminous possibilities. And the Daisy Art Parade gives RCE the opportunity to empower relationship building within Roanoke’s arts and cultural community that will help nurture that future into being.

Join us for next year’s parade!

Save the date: April 12, 2025

©2024 Roanoke Cultural Endowment. All rights reserved.