Book-lovers in hog heaven

Bank raising money for literacy programs with swines

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Alice Klauzer is in hog heaven -- or at least surrounded by it.

Klauzer, the marketing director for Alpine Bank, has spent the past several months helping to organize the bank's Project for Literacy, an endeavor called Alpine Swines.

Inspired in part by Seattle's now-famous Pigs on Parade, Alpine Bank commissioned artists from across the Western Slope to design and decorate 15 larger-than-life fiberglass pigs.

The swines, decorated in a variety of styles and themes, including ones that celebrate historical and cultural traits of the area, will be auctioned off during a one-month period beginning Sept. 15.

Money raised from the auction will go to the heart of the literacy project -- creating awareness of literacy and supporting literacy programs in Western Colorado, where Alpine Bank branches are located in more than two dozen communities.

Although no one is sure exactly how much money the project will raise or how the money will be allocated, Alpine Bank of Steamboat Springs President Scott Gordon said funds will be dedicated to Routt County literacy programs.

"We're going to keep ongoing dialogue to see where that money will go," Klauzer said. Gordon said money may be allocated locally through a granting process, but no firm process has been established.

Some of the giant painted pigs already have visited the area, spending an afternoon at Art in the Park last month. There's even some local representation: Steamboat artist Milly Judson was commissioned to paint a fiberglass pig named "Amelia Swinehart" by employees of the local branch. Swinehart, with the Rabbit Ears rock formation painted onto her back and a leather flight cap on her head, was made in the same professional yet light-hearted approach as the other hog replicas.

There's also Pig Tales, Angel's Hog Heaven, Pigasso, Celeste the Divine Swine, Coalswiner, Pigture Perfect and others.

The use of pigs meshes well with one of the project's slogans, "Pig Out on Books."

Alpine Bank has partnered with a nonprofit read-aloud group called Spellbinders to visit libraries, schools, literacy agencies and other organizations across the region to read to young children and build enthusiasm for literacy, particularly the spoken, or oral, tradition. Research shows that hearing stories increases children's vocabularies and helps improve their writing and reading skills. A Spellbinder volunteer visited Bud Werner Memorial Library in Steamboat last month to read to a group of children.

"The children just loved it," Klauzer said.

Like Spellbinder volunteers, the Alpine Bank swines are touring the Western Slope to promote the project and the auction. The bank also will raise money for literacy through the sale of Alpine Swines-related merchandise such as calendars, books, trading cards, T-shirts and small, hand-painted piggy bank replicas of the 15 fiberglass pigs. Some of the merchandise is available in Alpine Bank's Steamboat branch.

"It's been great fun," Gordon said. "We've had a lot of positive feedback. It's something unique that we've never done before."

Alpine Bank has sponsored other education-related programs like Pays for A's and the Classroom Credit Card Program, Klauzer said. For more information on Alpine Swines visit www.alpinebank.com.

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