Over the past nine years, the Carroll Arts Center's annual PEEPshow has become a cultural institution, as Carroll residents stock up on the marshmallow treats to create unique and formerly edible pieces of art. While several creators return each and every year to perfect their technique in creating the optimum piece of Peep art, the ranks are also joined by newbies who have put glue to marshmallow for the very first time.
Members of Goodwill's day habilitation program came together Friday morning to create their first entry to the show. The piece, a 20-by-20-inch wall hanging, features a tree representing the four seasons of the year with different-colored Peeps. Pat Ducker, in charge of the program's craft projects, said this was her first time hearing of the PEEPshow, but she felt it was the perfect project for the group to work on.
"The idea of the four seasons also tells our story here," Ducker said. "We're all in different parts of our lives, but we come together to change together."
Ducker said she bought the Peeps on clearance at Walmart, but was interested in finding out how the pros manage to collect enough for larger projects. Together, the group is planning to attend this year's PEEPshow together to see their work. This year's show opens this Friday, March 25.
Charles Haas, a member of the program, said he likes having the chance to get out and be a part of the community.
The dozen members of the program each took turns placing and gluing Peeps on the final project. Ducker told them not to worry about any mistakes.
"The great thing about art is that you can't mess it up," Ducker said. "There's only opportunities to make yourself a new piece."
While the Goodwill members had each other to lean on, other newfound creators had to work alone on their brand new pieces. Erin Gray said she was inspired by friends and roommates to pick up the glue gun and enter the show.
Gray was working on a life-size marshmallow version of BB-8, the adorable soccer ball-style droid from "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." To create the robot from a galaxy far, far away, Gray applied papier-mache to a bouncy ball, with a Styrofoam head. She then applied different colored Peeps and Twizzlers to create the droid's patterns and markings.
"It took a little bit of trial and error," Gray said. "I started with giant snowman Peeps, but they weren't working. I eventually had to scour the Internet for smaller snowman Peeps."
Gray eventually used more than 40 cases of Peeps in the final project.
Joy Fisher of PFLAG decided she wanted some expert help on creating the group's first entry in the PEEPshow. To prepare, Fisher went straight to the source, attending the Carroll Arts Center's presentation of Peep tips and tricks earlier in the year.
"One of the things that was good to learn was when they were talking about cutting the Peeps, they mentioned that the scissors can get gummed up," Fisher said. "To fix that you stick them into water to keep it from happening."
Fisher and other members of the LGBTQ activist organization have created a PFLAG pride parade diorama, recreating Baltimore's annual Pride Parade. She said she wanted to use the PEEPshow as a chance to let everyone know that PFLAG is here in the community.
"Every time we're at a school or are at an event, we have people coming up to us and saying, 'I didn't know you were here,' " Fisher said. "We thought: 'How can this be? This is going into our fifth year.' "
Fisher said she worked with her wife and two other members of the group for approximately 48 hours on the project spread over two weekends. She said she was surprised at how labor intensive it became, but in the end she was very happy with the final result.
As Peeps carry messages of tolerance, Fisher said she hopes the piece can be educational for viewers. To go along with the display will be pamphlets informing readers of PFLAG's mission in the community.
The Orr family also decided to use their Peep art as a platform to discuss a serious issue touching their family — breast cancer. Each year, Ryan, now 11, and Brooke, now 14, would attend the PEEPshow with their grandmother. In July, Grammy was diagnosed with breast cancer. In order to honor her, they decided to enter the PEEPshow with a design to raise awareness for the disease, a Peep pink ribbon.
Ryan and Brooke's mom, Sue, said the process has been slow, but the children are dedicated to finishing it in time.
"They just wanted to honor her and all women who are going through similar things," Sue Orr said. "It's simple, but with a big message."
If you go:
When: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, March 25 to Wednesday, April 6
Where: Carroll Arts Center, 91 W. Main St., Westminster
For more information: Visit www.carrollartscenter.org.