Key West’s Whimsical Sculpture Parade Puts Recycled Art In Motion

People-powered art sculptures are about to race through Key West for one of the kookiests parades you can picture.

The Papio Kinetic Sculpture Parade meshes art, engineering and recycling for an earth-friendly spectacle the whole family can enjoy.

“People of all backgrounds and all experience levels come together to embrace recycling, embrace our environment and embrace art,” Michael Gieda, executive director of the Key West Art & Historical Society, told Florida Keys News.

The event is named after late metal sculptor Stanley “Barefoot” Papio, a Key Largo artist whose welded works used car parts, home appliances and other throwaway items. What people saw as junk, Papio saw as potential.

“He started putting a call out to anybody to drop off appliances, car parts, what everybody deemed as junk, and just put it on his property,” Gieda told WLRN News back in 2016, the inaugural year of Key West’s kinetic parade.

Papio’s rebellious spirit, as the Key West Art & Historical Society aptly describes it, is celebrated during the three-day parade.

It gets rolling on Friday, May 3, with a 6 p.m. presentation on the history of kinetic sculpture racing and parading outside of the Custom House Museum.

The big parade, co-produced by Wonderdog Studios, is on Saturday, May 4, where Kinetic pilots take off from the Custom House Museum and pedal their moving art mobiles around a course that travels along parts of Key West’s Front, Duval and Southard streets.

The teams, which consist of pilots and a pit crew, are scored on course completion speed, kinetic sculpture integrity and the “funness” of their theme and/or costumes.

The event wraps up with an award ceremony on Sunday, May 6, at the Truman Waterfront Park Amphitheater, where the top human-powered kinetic sculptures receive trophies and cash prizes.

Past kinetic sculptures include a huge red dragon with scaly skin was made of recycled bubble wrap and a red rabbit made from recycled wood, foam and copper.

“This is art, this is history, this is creativity, this is community – this is Key West,” said Gieda. “It gives everybody an opportunity, no matter what your skill level is, to create something and then show it off.”

There’s also free all day admission to the Fort East Martello Museum’s “Stanley Papio: Junkyard Rebel” exhibit, featuring more than 100 of his pieces.

2018 Award Winners

2017 Award Winners

2016 Award Winners