When art jumps off the canvas out into the real world, that’s when it really turns into an adventure. What is often a solitary activity for the artist, or a quiet, reverent activity for the viewer, suddenly becomes something that can be actively participated in. A few things may come to mind here: street art, dinner theater, flash mobs, cow parades.
Sorry, what was that last thing? Did we say Cow Parade? Yes, yes we did. Right about now you’re probably wondering what the heck a cow parade is and what one would have to do with art. Allow us to enlighten you.
According to CowParadeSLO.com, “CowParade is an international moo-ving public art exhibit that has been featured in major world cities including Paris, Hong Kong, Athens, Moscow, Milan, London, New York, Cannes, Rio, Rome and beyond. CowParade has been staged in over 75 cities and towns, bringing smiles to more than 250 million people worldwide. Each CowParade shares a few common elements – community involvement, sponsors, artists, charities, beautiful cows, increased tourism, and notoriety.”
Van Gogh sought notoriety, but didn’t achieve much of it in his lifetime. Maybe someone should have told him about cow parades.
CowParade started in 1999, has put 5,000 unique cows on display, and raised $30 million for charity. Each life-sized cow is made of fiberglass and weighs 120 pounds and there is currently a herd of a hundred such cows roaming San Luis Obispo County on the California coast.
To give you an idea of the artistic expression allowed by this event, local artist have painted cows to look like the Incredible Hulk and a John Deere tractor, cows covered in monarch butterflies and colorful handprints, cows with clothes, cows with clockwork insides, and cows with regional agricultural depictions. There’s even an Adventure Cow that’s been zip lining!
The SLO Cow Parade began in a field at the Madonna Inn and then slowly dispersed, with each cow taking up residence in a new location. One of the best things about these fun, artsy cows is stumbling upon one unexpectedly. Here are a few of our favorite discoveries: