This year's caravan may have up to 40 entries, according to one of its organizers.
Zack Taylor and Karl Byleen-Higley, both 13, concentrate as they brush paint onto the body of a white Checker Aerobus limousine in the parking lot at Central Junior High School, 15th and Massachusetts.
Zack fills in the arches of a rainbow with blue, green, yellow and teal while Karl adds color within the outlines of flowers and a gay rights symbol. To their left, 13-year-old Barbara Reliford paints a yellow-and-orange sun and blue bubbles.
The youngsters, along with 12 other students involved in the Van Go Mobile Arts program, are putting the finishing touches on ``Out on a Limo,'' their entry in this year's Art Tougeau parade.
``The kids designed it and it's uncensored,'' said Lynne Green, director of the Van Go program, an arts-based social service agency that brings afterschool arts programming to children.
When finished, the stretch limousine will be covered with colorful faces, ruby-red hearts and other images designed by the seventh- and eighth-graders. The images pays tribute to Eric Smith, a New York fashion designer and Green's cousin, who donated the 1974 stretch limo with tiger-striped seat covers and roof-top luggage rack to the Van Go program.
``The car's been in many parades in New York City and Washington,'' Green said, adding that only 200 Checker Aerobuses were produced. ``It's a car that symbolizes art, imagination and joyfulness.''
Helping the students with the project are professional artists Lora Jost and Jane Wegscheider and Mishea Obigi, a high school apprentice from the Lawrence Alternative High School.
Up the street a few blocks, staff and volunteer artists at the Cottonwood Retirement Facility, 1029 N.H., were helping two of its clients paint a sign for their entry in the Art Tougeau parade.
Titled ``Dinner and a Movie,'' their entry will be a van covered with movie posters and large cardboard cutouts painted like popcorn, pizza, nachos and candy bars.
Cottonwood Inc. threw its hat into to the Art Tougeau ring after receiving a phone call from Lawrence Arts Center staff, who offered to work with Cottonwood's clients if they were interested in entering the parade.
``We kind of wanted to reach some people who wouldn't get the opportunity to do this,'' said Ellen Williams, the education director at the arts center.
Kesha Larson, director of community relations for Cottonwood Inc., said its clients are very excited to be a part of the parade.
``It's something special for them,'' she said. ``They get a sense of pride when their work is displayed in the community.''
Parade entries increase
The Art Tougeau rules are pretty simple: If it has wheels, can be decorated and is able to roll down Massachusetts Street, then it can be entered into the annual parade.
Charles Jones, one of the event's organizers, said he expects up to 40 entries this year. Confirmed entries include a Volkswagen decorated with wrought iron; the Banana Bike Brigade; an art car from Hillcrest fifth-graders that may involve up to 90 pounds of glitter; entries from Independence Inc. and the Social Service League; a BMW resembling an airplane; and a Volkswagen decorated as a lady bug.
Amy Carlson, a Lawrence artist, said she and her family are entering the parade again this year. Their 1997 entry was a car decorated like a birthday cake. This year, their pickup will become a take-off on a billboard sign that notes how many people are fed by one Kansas farmer.
Carlson said the Art Tougeau parade makes art ``totally accessible to the people.''
``You can like it for what it is,'' she said, ``without having a discussion about its meaning or background.''
-- Jan Biles' phone message number is 832-7146. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.