During the summer of 2000, Downtown Calgary became of dairy farm of a different sort for the summer. Organizers in Zürich, Switzerland introduced the concept of bringing painted cows into the city during 1998 in a project called Land in Sicht. The following year in summer 1999 the concept was taken to Chicago where the cows grazed along the Magnificent Mile along with a new cow that is used often around the world in various cities since that time.
Building the framework.
Bonnie Laycock saw the Chicago event and thought it would be a great way to generate a fundraising effort for local charities. She rightfully thought that building on the “cow culture” associated with the Calgary Stampede would bring success and ready market for this project. She along with other like-minded and community-oriented people then formed a new organization Udderly Art Inc. which was formed to oversee this project and bring it to fruition. It was unlike anything that the city had ever experienced before. The beneficiaries of this endeavor were various local, national and international charities.
The organizing committee got together and had to figure out who best to make the cows, since this was an independent organization from the Chicago one.
Local artist, who made a name for himself by creating life-sized dinosaur models – Brian Cooley. He set out to create a big doey-eyed jersey cow as the model from which all 125 Calgary cows were created from.
How did it work?
An individual or corporation would generally purchase the model and then donate it to a charity. The artist and charity were matched somehow through various methods of selection. During most of the summer, once the cows were painted or completed they were allowed to graze along Stephen Avenue Mall. After the summer had ended, at a large fundraising auction the dairy cows were auctioned off to the highest bidder and the designated charities would in turn receive the funds.
It was a win/win situation for all parties involved. It also built community and connections with groups, people and organizations that may not have crossed paths before.
So what happened to the cows since 2000?
There is a small herd of dairy cattle located on the +15 level of the Centennial Parkade in downtown Calgary. The others have been dispersed. Occasionally, we hear about them in the local papers, but usually they are forgotten and quietly graze wherever they ended up only remembered by their owners and those who happen to pass by.
Recently, in my travels I came across a stray from the herd in Centennial Parkade.
The artist who painted this cow is Lynnie Wonfor and it is entitled Knee Deep in Wild Flowers. It was donated by Viking Management Inc. to the Calgary Stampede Foundation, which was also the charity that received the funds when sold. Who purchased it is unknown. From information believed to be accurate, it seems as if the flowers were painted based on flowers on the country property where the CEO of Viking Management then lived during 1999.
Now this cow seems to have traded the country life for one where she is penned in on a grassless patio with a few shrubs and can keep a watchful eye overlooking her favourite charity.
In time, I am sure that I will cross paths with others and maybe even write about them again.