Batesville’s Umbrella Sky Project
Residents and visitors to Batesville have undoubtedly noticed the colorful display of umbrellas in the skies above Sesquicentennial Park in downtown Batesville. Part of the Umbrella Sky Project, the vibrant display has its origins in the small Portuguese village of Águeda, Portugal. The display began as a quest to attract customers to the village’s downtown area. Each year the Ágitagueda Art Festival displayed public art on a store filled street in the town. The problem was, the art works on display kept disappearing. Local artist Patricia Cunha began pondering an idea that would put the art out of reach and thwart would be thieves. She drew her inspiration from a fantasy-like scene from the popular movie starring Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews called Mary Poppins.
Patricia Cunha (1978 – )
Native to Águeda, Patricia as a girl created arts and crafts to sell door to door, organized birthday parties and created a local paper in which she spread news about events. She also helped organize local events and used arts, crafts and paintings in the events. She studied marketing and publicity, eventually forming her own company she called Sextafeira Productions in 2007. She changed the name of the company to Impactplan Art Productions in 2019. Cunha serves as the creative director of the company, which strives to promote and improve public spaces by bringing joy and color to surrounding areas.
Birth of the Umbrella Sky Project
Using Mary Poppins as her inspiration, Cunha had workers string cables connecting rooftops and hung brightly colored umbrellas from the cables during the early summer of 2011. The umbrellas provided eye popping colors and the shadows cast on the street below provided a welcome relief from Portugal’s summer heat. The display stays in place during the summer months of June, July and August. Each year planners choose a different theme which they use to reflect displays all over town. Since the popularity of the Project has increased visitors come to Águeda seeking the umbrellas, however those arriving out of season are disappointed to find the umbrellas gone. Since the umbrellas will not hold up all year, due to the weather, Cunha is considering ways of keeping a display up all year.
Age of the Selfie
The birth of the Umbrella Sky Project coincided with the practice of people taking selfies. The unusual display of colorful umbrellas caused visitors to take selfies of themselves and post them on social media sites. Friends that saw the photos shared them with their friends, thus the colorful umbrella photos spread all over the world, prompting people to begin inquiring about how they might have their own display.
In 2013 Cunha had 5 customers that installed her art projects. By 2020 the number had grown to 167 cities across the world. The list of cities includes Paris, Bordeaux, St. Petersburg, Pittsburgh, Lens, Gatlinburg Tennessee (Dollywood) and now Batesville.
The Batesville Area Arts Council took on the project after board president Ethel Rodriguez saw an installation while visiting Mexico. It was a daunting task, however the project was successful. The display in Batesville will be in place during from mid June through mid October. Anyone interested in the project can contact:
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