How 1999 Cow Parade in Chicago inspired a Series of Public Art Projects raising Millions for Charities

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In the year 1999, Chicago had a very successful and in many ways a trend-setting exhibition, “Cows on Parade”. It featured about 300 life-size fiber-glass cows, hand-painted by local artists, displayed in public spaces throughout the city of Chicago. After the exhibition was over, the Cow Parade cows are auctioned off, and the money was donated to different charities. The immensely popular display attracted about 2 million visitors to Chicago,  and charity auction of the cows raised more than $3.4 million.

After making its American debut in Chicago, the “Cow on Parade” cows quickly spread to more than 75 cities around the world. During its 15 year run, it is estimated that over 5,000 cows have been created, and over 250 million people around the world have seen one of the parade cows. The various exhibitions have raised more than $30 million for charitable organizations around the world. Over 10,000 artists worldwide have participated in Cow Parade – professional and amateur, famous and emerging, young and old. The idea has been taken up by other cities which have chosen themes for similar public art projects with painted fiberglass sculptures which were later auctioned off and money donated to charities.

 

The concept of “Cows on parade” had its origins in Zürich, Switzerland, in 1998 by artistic director Walter Knapp. It was based on a similar idea lions on display the same city for the first time in 1986. The Zürich exhibit 1998 painted fiberglass cow exhibition was not called “cows on parade”, but was called “Land in Sicht” [roughly translated as “Countryside in view”]. The concept was brought to the United States when local Chicago businessman Peter Hanig, along with Commissioner of Cultural Affairs Lois Weisberg, organized an event in Chicago in 1999.  Michael Lash was Director of Public Art for the city of Chicago and Nathan Mason was curator for the exhibition. What’s the relation between Chicago and cows? Folklore has it that the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, was caused by Mrs. O’Leary’s cow. It destroyed a large portion of the town, but the city was able to rebuild and grow. Other relation being that from the Civil War until the 1920s Chicago was the country’s largest meatpacking center and was acknowledged as the headquarters of the industry. As Frank Sinatra sang in his famous “My Kind of Town, Chicago is”… “The union stockyard, Chicago is”…

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Original Exhibition: Zürich, Switzerland in 1998 / Artistic director Walter Knapp
Concept adapted in Chicago: local businessman Peter Hanig
Commissioner of Cultural Affairs: Lois Weisberg
Director of Public Art Program: Mike Lash
Curator for the exhibition: Nathan Mason

 

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Cow Parade, Shanghai, China [2014] / Image Courtesy chinadaily.com.cn

Cow Parade, Shanghai, China [2014] / Image Courtesy chinadaily.com.cn

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In the year 1999, Chicago had a very successful and in many ways a trend-setting exhibition, “Cows on Parade”. It featured about 300 life-size fiber-glass cows, hand-painted by local artists, displayed in public spaces throughout the city of Chicago. After the exhibition was over, the Cow Parade cows are auctioned off, and the money was donated to different charities. The immensely popular display attracted about 2 million visitors to Chicago, and charity auction of the cows raised more than $3.4 million.

After making its American debut in Chicago, the “Cow on Parade” cows quickly spread to more than 75 cities around the world. click here..

Cows on Parade, inspired exhibitions on similar themes.
The idea is simple..
[1] Fiberglass sculptures are decorated by local artists, sponsored by local businesses.
[2] These are exhibited in public places such as important streets, parks and local avenues around the city for a few months.
[3] After the exhibition is over, the statues are auctioned off and proceeds donated to charities.

After Cows on Parade, there have been: Pigs in Cincinnati [2000], Guitars in Cleveland [2004], Nashville and Austin [2007], Fish in Baltimore [2001], Mermaids in Norfolk [2000], Donkeys and Elephants in Washington, DC [2002],  Hearts in San Francisco [2004], Buffaloes in Buffalo, New York [2000] and Oklahoma City [2004],  Snoopys in St. Paul [2000],  Rescue Dogs in New York City [2002], Lions in Sacramento, Painted Ponies in Santa Fe… and the parades continues..

This year [2014], in my two mini-vacations: one to Austin, Texas and the other to UK, I saw spin-offs of Cow Parade. In Austin I saw few fiberglass guitar sculptures from the 2007 exhibition, “Austin GuitarTown Public Art Project”. In Liverpool, UK I saw Superlambanana, from their 2008 exhibition.

 

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Austin Guitar Town Public Art Project /2006-07

Austin Guitar Town Public Art Project /2006-07

 

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Above Image was taken from my recent Austin trip. The Austin GuitarTown project, a public arts project featured thirty-five(35) 10-foot tall fiberglass Gibson guitars along with thirty-five (35) showcase Gibson guitars painted by local visual artists. The sculptures were then auctioned off benefiting four local charities: The Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM); The Austin Museum of Art (AMOA); American Youth works; and the Austin Children’s Museum.

 

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Superlambanana in Liverpool, UK

Superlambanana in Liverpool, UK

 

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When I was in Liverpool, UK, the Superlambanana [Super Lamb Banana] caught my eyes. These were part of celebration of Liverpool being elected as the European “Capital of Culture” in 2008. The Superlambanana was designed by Manhattan-based Japanese artist Taro Chiezo. The sculpture is a comment on the dangers of genetic engineering and is heavily influenced by the history of Liverpool: historically both sheep and bananas were common cargos in the Liverpool’s docks. Chiezo himself only created a four-inch model; the full-size replica was made by four local artists: Andy Small, Julian Taylor, Tommy Reason and Ray Stokes. They created 125 replicas of Superlambanana to decorate and revitalize cultural and social events. In 2008, The Go Superlambananas! art exhibition was developed by the Liverpool Culture Company (LCC), led by its Creative Director Phil Redmond, in partnership with the Wild In Art. Each of these acted as a blank slate, on which various groups throughout the city could develop and design their own cultural contribution the city’s celebrations. For more, click here..

 

In Chicago over the years we have seen:
2001: Suite Home Chicago / Couches on Parade
2007: Cool Globes : Hot idea for a cooler planet..  click here..
2012: Giant Ryder Cup Golf Balls
2013: The Great Chicago Fire Hydrants..  click here..
2014: Horses of Honor.. click here..

 

 

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2007: Cool Globes : Hot idea for a cooler planet

2007: Cool Globes : Hot idea for a cooler planet / Chicago, IL

 

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2007: Cool Globes : Hot idea for a cooler planet.

The exhibit featured over 100 sculpted globes, each five feet in diameter, displayed along Chicago’s lakefront from The Field Museum north and at Navy Pier. Artists from around the world, including Jim Dine, Yair Engel, Tom Van Sant and Juame Plensa, designed the globes, using a variety of materials to transform their plain white sphere to create awareness and provoke discussion about potential solutions to global warming. For more, click here..

 

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2013:  The Great Chicago Fire Hydrants

2013: The Great Chicago Fire Hydrants / Chicago, IL.

 

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2013: The Great Chicago Fire Hydrants Public Art Project

This citywide public art installation featured oversized replicas of Chicago’s iconic standard fire hydrants designed, painted, decorated and/or dressed by local artists. These colorful sculptures are be placed throughout the City in tribute to the work and heroism of our beloved Chicago Firefighters. At the conclusion of the exhibition, the hydrants were auctioned, with net proceeds benefiting charities that support the families of fire victims and other fire safety programs. For more, click here..

 

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2014: Horses of Honor

2014: Horses of Honor / Chicago, IL

 

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2014: Horses of Honor

Since 1853, over 500 Chicago Police officers have sacrificed their lives to protect our city. In honor of those who we have lost, Wintrust partnered with the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation for a public art installation to benefit our fallen heroes. Designed to resemble Chicago’s Mounted Patrol Unit horses, the Horses of Honor stand for providing support and assistance to the families of those men and women who have been killed or catastrophically injured in the line of duty. For more, click here..

 


 

REFERENCES:
Chicago Cow Parade Art exhibit.. click here..
Cow Parade.. click here..
Cow Parade.. click here..
Donkeys and Elephants, Washington D.C. [2002].. click here..
Big Pig Gig, Cincinnati, Ohio [2000, 2012].. click here..
Fish out of Water, Baltimore, Maryland [2001]..click here..
Guitar Mania, Cleveland, 2004..click here..
Austin Guitar Town project [2007].. click here..
Peanuts On Parade [2000].. click here..
DOGNY, Rescue Dogs in New York City [2002].. click here..
The Trail of Painted Ponies, Santa Fe [2000]..
Cash Cow – The Cow Parade – by Susan Tallman.. click here..
Review on Suite Home Chicago..click here..

 

Festival of Fins, New Orleans, 2000 (200 fish), Peanuts on Parade, St. Paul, Minn., 2000 (101 Snoopys), Big Pig Gig, Cincinnati, 2000 (425 pigs), Moose in the City, Toronto, 2000 (325 moose), Mr. Potato Heads, Rhode Island, 2000 (47 Potato Heads), Herd about Buffalo, Buffalo, N.Y., 2000 (150 Buffalo),   Mermaids on Parade, Norfolk, Va., 2000 (130 mermaids),  SharkByte Art, San Jose, Calif., 2001 (96 sharks), It’s Reigning Frogs, Toledo, 2001 (110 frogs), The Ewe Revue, Rochester, Mich., 2001 (45 sheep), The People Project, St. Louis, 2001 (180 figures), Dolphins on Parade, Florida Keys, 2001 (102 dolphins), Pigs on Parade, Seattle, 2002 (200 pigs), Overalls All Over: An American Gothic Happening, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 2002 (29 couples), Gallopalooza: Louisville’s Sidewalk Derby, Louisville, 2004 (200 horses planned),  Spirit of Buffaloes, Oklahoma, 2004..
Ref:.. click here..

 

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RELATED LINKS

Exhibitions at Chicago Cultural Center.. click here..
Temporary Exhibitions.. click here..
Home: Public Art in Chicago.. click here..

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1 Comment to “How 1999 Cow Parade in Chicago inspired a Series of Public Art Projects raising Millions for Charities”

  1. […] idea began with an exhi­bi­tion of cows in Zurich, Switzer­land in 1998. (This site claims that the idea orig­i­nated in the same city in 1986, with an exhi­bi­tion of lions.) A […]

  2. […] parade is a great way of upholding art and culture. The fiberglass cow monuments are painted beautifully to depict cultures and traditions of the […]

  3. […] of life-sized painted fibreglass cows, which were auctioned off for charity. The next year the idea was mimicked by a Chicago businessman for the ‘cows on parade’ exhibition, which has since been taken to 79 cities around […]

  4. […] of life-sized painted fibreglass cows, which were auctioned off for charity. The next year the idea was mimicked by a Chicago businessman for the ‘cows on parade’ exhibition, which has since been taken to 79 cities around […]

  5. […] Bovine creature with a skyline in the “front yard” of a building on east 12th St. Googling around informs me that it may be related in some way to Chicago’s 1999 “Cow Parade.” Read all about that here. […]

  6. […] Farm animals, other than at the annex of the Lincoln Park Zoo, not so much. There was the 1999 Cow Parade when fiberglass cows were decorated and displayed all around town. But they weren’t mooing, or […]

  7. Jean Janecek says:

    What do you know about an “egg” exhibition in a London park some years back?