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People Project pleases

Submitted Photo/Daily Globe More than 200 people gathered on the ice at Iowa Lakeside Lab to be part of the third annual ArtsLIVE People Project.1 / 2
Justine Wettschreck/Daily Globe Volunteers for the ArtsLIVE 2010 People Project wave at the plane passing overhead, which carried the photographer who captured the cardinal in an aerial view.2 / 2

MILFORD, Iowa -- Tahoe Sackett is not quite two years old, but has already been immortalized in art. Along with a couple hundred other people.

Tahoe, from Okoboji, came out onto the ice with his grandparents, John and Frankie Barrow of Eden Prairie, formerly of England. They joined the others who had come to help with the ArtsLIVE 2010 People Project, the third annual event in which volunteers stand in a certain formation while aerial photos are taken.

The project, sponsored by the Friends of Lakeside Lab, was part of the 30th annual University of Okoboji Winter Games.

This year, 205 people rode shuttle buses, drove or even walked across the frozen lake to the Iowa Lakeside Laboratory to be part of the project. Wearing a little red shirt over his jacket, Tahoe and his grandparents carefully made their way down to the ice from the lab's mess hall.

As people disembarked shuttle buses chatting and laughing, they were herded into the hall or headed down to the ice. A wide, zig-zagging path had been cleared, and those at the top of the hill had a pretty view of the line of volunteers, most in red jackets or clothing, heading down to where the outline of the project could be seen in the snow.

Jane Shuttleworth, education coordinator for Iowa Lakeside Labs, smiled and laughed her way through the whole experience, encouraging people to sign up for a drawing, pointing them toward cocoa and coffee, greeting many by name and making sure everyone was enjoying themselves.

"Once we get down to the holding area, dark people go to the right and everyone else go to the left," she told people as they first got off shuttle buses. "We'll sort ourselves out for the big bird."

The idea to do an aerial photo using people started when ArtsLIVE approached her, wanting to do an outdoor project.

"We wanted to do something that would involve people, and show the importance of the water and land," she explained. "Something like this creates environmental awareness."

This year's project, a cardinal, was designed by artist Chad Branham, who said he liked the idea of the contrast. Volunteers had been asked to wear red clothing to make the bird stand out against the white snow. A large majority of them complied, but some wore darker colors. As the volunteers reached the bottom of the slope and stepped onto the ice, they were sorted into colors. Dug into the snow on the lake was a large cardinal outline.

"We need 15 dark people for a foot," Branham called over a megaphone to his wife Marta Barnard, who was in charge of sorting.

"There are a lot of people here this year," said Jean Ferneding of Manning as she stood patiently in her assigned spot near the tail feathers.

A cousin to Barnard, Ferneding said it was her second year volunteering for the project. An art teacher herself, she liked the idea of being a part of such a creative venture.

"They had us jump up and down at one point last year," she said. "I'm not sure if it was for the picture or just for fun."

Fun was definitely part of the agenda, as Branham called for more people in red to fill in the tail.

"Everybody wave," he yelled out as a bright yellow plane from Midwest Flying Services flew above their heads. Inside was photographer Judy Hemphill, snapping away at the bright red cardinal below.

Still directing his human art supplies, Branham gave basic directions.

"Everyone stand parallel to the trough they are in," he explained.

"I wasn't very good in geometry," someone yelled back.

Many participants came from nearby Okoboji, but others travelled from Cherokee, Hartley, Spencer and Iowa City, Iowa. There were volunteers from Minneapolis, Arkansas and Alabama. There were a couple children as young as Tahoe, some elderly who walked gingerly down to the lake using ski poles to balance, and all ages in between.

The official count of volunteers was 205 this year, Branham said, up from 124 from last year and 174 from the year before.

Transferring his computer drawing of the cardinal onto the ice took about an hour and a half, four people, and a lot of little green cones.

"I used math and triangulation and hypotenuses and stuff," he said with a laugh.

The project appealed to him because he liked the idea of using people as a medium.

Walking away from the project as his "paint" headed up the hill toward the mess hall and hot cocoa, he glanced back over the ice.

"It was here, and now it's gone," he said.

The volunteers waited patiently in the mess hall as Hemphill deplaned and headed to Lakeside. Plugging equipment into a computer, she stepped back as an image of the giant cardinal flashed up on a big screen and applause filled the hall.

"Yes! It worked," Barnard stated, flashing her husband a grin.

Soon, the volunteers wandered back out to the shuttle buses and headed out to enjoy other parts of the winter games.

Tahoe, now stripped of the red shirt that had covered his coat, ran up and down the aisle near the back of the bus as others loaded.

Grabbing his grandson as he loped past, John Barrow chuckled and handed him over to grandma.

"Oh, that was fabulous," he stated, his native English accent coming through. "A very good time."