Riverside Arts Weekend is just a couple of weeks away, a fact announced Sunday with the arrival of a handful of playfully painted and decorated swans in Guthrie and Centennial parks in downtown Riverside.

The 10th annual arts weekend, also known as RAW, will be held in Guthrie Park on May 20-21, and the group of volunteers organizing the event chose swans as the “spectacle” because they represent not only transformation but have a specific connection to Riverside.

“One of the things we’ve learned through the past two years is that the community really enjoys picking something up and turning it back into us completely transformed,’ said Helen Gallagher, one of the event’s volunteer organizers. “We also talked about something that represented Riverside. We talked about Swan Pond, which led us to a conversation about that feature, because it’s undergoing its own transformation.”

When they’re all placed around downtown there’ll be a “bevy” of 36 swans in all, decorated by individuals and, this year, several groups – including art students from Hauser Junior High School, Girl Scout Troop 51401, Riverside Township, Riverside Public Library, Ascension Church and the Frederick Law Olmsted Society.

Many of the swans (plastic decoys mounted on concrete board) have been decorated with themes that directly refer to Riverside itself. One of the eight swans decorated by Hauser students, under the direction of teacher Harjit Singh, features the swan’s neck as the water tower, topped by a conical hat representing the roof. Another of the student swans references the windows at the Coonley Playhouse on Fairbank Road, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

“Mr. Singh guided his students in the work, producing eight swans, and encouraged them to be playful with the concept,” said Gallagher in a press release.

The Frederick Law Olmsted Society produced what could be considered a signature swan , seated at the feet of a full-sized Frederick Law Olmsted along with the Riverside Historical Commission’s “General Swan of Riverside.” Both are on display inside the Riverside Public Library, 1 Burling Road. 

Like all of the swans decorated this year, they were given an extra layer of protection via seal coating by Metal Mites. All of the swans will be placed in high-traffic areas of the downtown as “ambassadors” for the upcoming event.

The swans will also serve as a fundraiser for Riverside Arts Weekend and will be auctioned online beginning May 15. More information about the online auction can be found at www.riversideartsweekend.wordpress.com. 

The RAW committee itself underwent a transformation this year, with longtime leader Jean Sussman stepping away.

“Those are unbelievable shoes to fill and we all feel a huge responsibility to get it right,” said Gallagher. “She was the heart and soul of the volunteer effort.”

Riverside Arts Weekend (May 20 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and May 21 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) will include a juried arts fair featuring more than 70 artists. There will also be live music and the Riverside Arts Center will have a tent featuring hands-on art activities for adults and children. Food and drink will also be available. Admission is free. 

This story has been changed to clarify which organizations were responsible for the swans displayed in the Riverside Public Library.