ManneqArt is like “Project Runway” and “Face Off” and “Shear Genius,” all thrown into one. And on steroids.mannequins_take_stage

So says Rachel Verhaaren, the visual coordinator at ManneqArt. The project, an initiative of Laurel-based clothing designer Lee Andersen, is a worldwide competition to find and showcase clothing, hair, makeup and other visual artists.

The contest calls for artists to design all aspects of display mannequins – even their “digital environments” says Verhaaren. Andersen was inspired by a “World of Wearable Art,” a decades-old competition held in her country of origin, New Zealand.

After waiting 20 years for a similar competition to pop up in the States, Verhaaren says, Andersen “took it upon herself to start one.”

Andersen and her husband Al Scolnik are supporting the competition with $50,000, aligning with their belief that artists should be paid for their work.

The first 200 winners’ creations will be displayed at The Mall in Columbia and at locations around Howard County. “Snowy Owl” by Gina Tepper, is at the mall, and four more were displayed at the Blossoms of Hope luncheon at Turf Valley in April.

From the initial 200, 50 artists will be awarded monetary prizes. Hair and makeup artists will then recreate the winners’ creations with live models at a June 23 event at Savage Mill; the models will again hit the catwalk for an awards gala on September 29 at the Howard Community College Smith Theater.

There, the top 11 designs will be lauded, with a top prize of $10,000.

You don’t have to be a professional – or even a grown-up – to compete in ManneqArt, says Verhaaren. And forget tradition.

“You can build the Eiffel Tower on someone’s head,” Verhaaren says. “Use yarn, use chicken wire – as long as it’s safe, use whatever you want.”


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