Can you picture the area that's now the Gaslamp Quarter - bustling streets packed with shops and restaurants - as nothing more than barren land, scrubby sagebrush and dusty rabbit runs?
That was the case until 1867, when Alonzo Horton arrived, determined to build a thriving city on the San Diego Bay. The nickname "Rabbitville" didn't deter him, and obviously, he was successful. But this year, the neighborhood will be filled with rabbits once again.
The Gaslamp Quarter Association is planning a public art installation, "Rabbitville," to commemorate the neighborhood's 150th anniversary and pay homage to its earlier inhabitants. They are commissioning local artists to paint and decorate 15 fiberglass rabbit sculptures that will be on display throughout the Gaslamp Quarter this year, beginning in April.
"Alonzo Horton was a visionary leader who set a precedent of hard work and determination still very much alive in the Gaslamp Quarter. We want the "Rabbitville" installation to educate and inspire the next generation of pioneers in San Diego," said Michael Trimble, executive director of the Gaslamp Quarter Association.
The Gaslamp Quarter Association is working in conjunction with the Downtown San Diego Partnership Clean and Safe program to make this unique public art installation possible. "Rabbitville" received its initial funding from the Downtown San Diego Partnership's Clean and Safe Board of Directors whom allocate money to each downtown neighborhood for placemaking projects. The Clean and Safe team will assist in the installation and ongoing maintenance of "Rabbitville" as well as monitor the safety of the art throughout the program.
Corporations, community groups, merchants and private citizens may sponsor rabbits for $10,000 each. Sponsors will enjoy a range of promotional benefits, including, but not limited to, recognition on a commemorative plaque and possession of a rabbit upon completion of the program. Proceeds from sponsorship will help fund new enhanced lighting in the Gaslamp Quarter. After the installation, each rabbit will go to a permanent home with its sponsor.
"Sponsoring a rabbit is a great way for someone who loves San Diego history to also help fund a project that will increase public safety and beautify the historic Gaslamp Quarter," said Trimble.
Local artists are encouraged to apply to paint and decorate the rabbits. Proposals will be accepted until Feb. 17. Information for artists is available at gaslamp.org/150/rabbitville.