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Winston-Salem’s Mannequin Shenanigans explained

Here’s how the figures end up on buildings in the Arts District.

Brick building with painted mannequin with gold wings.

“Kat Skywalker” by artist Cheryl Ann Lipstreu has been at 723 N. Trade St. since 2020.

Photo by WStoday

Does it always feel like somebody’s watching you when you’re wandering along Trade Street? If you look up, there are a handful of mannequins perched atop buildings. We learned their placement is intentional to promote the Arts District.

How it started

Stewart Knight is an artist who is behind several of the mannequins. He’s also the operational director for Art for Art’s Sake (AFAS), the nonprofit that manages the collaborative exhibit. Knight tells City Editor Cambridge an AFAS board member came up with the idea for Mannequin Shenanigans ~15 years ago. Knight worked with artist Kim Pegram on Lola, one of the first mannequins that was installed in 2013. Over a dozen have been created since.

How it’s going

Business owners and homeowners in the Downtown Arts District can connect with AFAS to sponsor a mannequin, which means having a figure installed on their building. The sponsor can decide whether to pay for the art + installation, or AFAS will fund the artist’s work. Any artist can participate in Mannequin Shenanigans.

Cloudy skies with red figurine sitting on the corner of a building with a black awning.

“Sax Man” by artist Blake Kovner Willis was installed atop the WTOB radio station at 615 N. Trade St. in 2013.

Photo by WStoday

The mannequins vary in size, shape, and material. Once an artist commits to the job, it can take them anywhere from five months to a year to complete the mannequin. Crews with Signs by Tomorrow in Greensboro install the pieces.

Knight says the process of making the figures weather resistant has been refined over time. He handles a lot of the repairs when they need to come down for a touch up. Broken mannequins sometimes end up in AFAS children’s program to allow young artists to experiment with decorations.

Get involved

Knight hopes as many as 50 mannequins will eventually line Trade and Liberty streets to welcome visitors to the Arts District. He says strengthening the grant process would allow more artists to participate. You can make a donation to AFAS to support Mannequin Shenanigans and other initiatives.

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