Rhinestone_Rhino_BirminghamBirmingham city centre has become home to a major new piece of public art after unveiling a life-sized rhinoceros sculpture on the eve of Birmingham’s 2012 Gay Pride celebrations.

The sculpture, dubbed the ‘Rhinestone Rhino’, has been four years in the making and was installed at the heart of the second city’s Gay Village as an icon for the area. It is hoped that the artwork, coupled with other recent improvements to the area, will help propel Birmingham to ‘gay destination’ status such as that already enjoyed by Manchester and Brighton.

Costing over £15,000, including a £10,000 grant from Birmingham City Council, the sculpture depicts a life-size rhinoceros adorned with mirrorwork and replica gemstones. The winning design was selected due to the rhinoceros’s history as an American symbol of the gay rights movement during the 1970s. Its mirrored surface has been crafted to reflect Birmingham’s rich jewellery-making history.

The project is the result of a collaboration between local organisations including Birmingham City Council, Birmingham LGBT, GB Training Ltd. and Southside Business Improvement District, which incorporates Birmingham’s Gay Village, Chinatown and theatre districts. Its unveiling also coincides with the annual Birmingham Pride festival, this year taking place over the Diamond Jubilee bank holiday weekend and set to welcome tens of thousands of revellers to the area’s streets.

Julia Chance, Southside BID manager, said: “The Rhino looks fantastic and it was really exciting to launch it after all the hard work that has gone into the project over the last four years.

“Gay Villages like ours are important contributors to Britain’s local economies and this is why it is worth investing in them with projects like our Rhino. It’s a fantastic example of public, private and charitable organisations working together to create something positive for the community.”

A gallery of images chronicling the construction process can be found at www.birminghamrhino.org.uk.

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