Capri Scarcelli | a&e editor
On Dec. 31, the 2022 Highmark First Night Event hosted friends, families and couples in-person, featuring an inflatable rabbit attraction for passerby to take pictures with to ring in the New Year.
The exhibit debuted with the help of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, where the bunny is placed on the corner of 8th Street and Penn Avenue downtown in an empty parking lot. Smaller, 12-foot bunnies are scattered in a cushioned alleyway right by the Benedum Center, and are said to be her “babies” according to the PCT website. Entitled “Intrude,” Australian artist Amanda Parer captures the youthful innocence of these bunnies, though also nods to how this invasive species was introduced into Australia unknowing settlers.
Parer said her inspiration for this exhibit was to symbolize “how humans mismanage the natural world and [their] relationship with it,” according to CBS.
“People see it and are drawn into the cuteness of [the exhibit], but might dig a little deeper to the more serious tones of the artwork.”
According to Parer, over 200 million feral rabbits inhabit the Australian ecosystem – invasively brought over by travelers. Though seemingly harmless, these little bunnies often destroy millions of dollars worth of farmers’ crops, and endanger native species in the area — much like the deer population in Pennsylvania.
This, Parer said, is a big issue that is often not addressed.
Junior education major Andrew Mine went to the exhibit on Dec. 31. The ‘Bun-zilla’ display was accompanied with festivities around 9 p.m., including a fire show, ice show, parade and kids’ zone with Christmas-themed arts and crafts.
“It seemed like something from a carnival. They had performers twirling torches, spitting fire, sawing ice blocks into shapes and it was really cool,” Mine said. “A marching band walked by, the mayor walked by, and then there were a ton of tents for kids to make Christmas crafts.”
According to Mine, the bunnies were safe to interact with, as kids ran around and hugged the bunnies over and over.
“A regular person walking by may not know that [this symbolized] an environmental issue,” Mine said. “But I think this is cool because it actively promotes interaction and accessibility, encouraging people to touch the art and be a part of it.”
According to Mine, people have compared the bunny to the giant rubber duck of 2013 — a small bundle of joy enlarged for plenty of adorable irony. The duck was measured at 40-foot tall, whereas the First Night bunny was designed 10-feet taller.
Mine said he hopes that Pittsburgh continues to integrate pop-up art exhibits for the city to come together and enjoy.
“I hope that Pittsburgh does more with inflatables because I find it very interesting. I think it brings the best out in the city when people come together for art.” Mine said. “Anything art can be promoted for I’m there for.”
To symbolize their integral, persistent nature, the bunnies are inflated in the morning and deflated at night, like the moon or sun. Due to weather, the exhibit is now available 4:30 – 10 p.m. daily until Jan. 28.