Some have called Kansas City a cow town.
Now there's proof.
From June 8 through Sept. 14, the Kansas City area will serve as a giant urban pasture to hundreds of bovine visitors.
But Kansas Citians needn't worry about dodging cow pies. These cows aren't real they're works of art. They're part of CowParade Kansas City 2001, a public art exhibition of Kansas City, Mo., Kansas City, Kan., and the surrounding area.
The CowParade is designed to promote the arts and benefit children's art and education programs of The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, The American Royal and The Friends of the Zoo (supporters of the Kansas City Zoological Park).
The public art event will feature life-size fiberglass cows painted and decorated by area artists, including five from Lawrence.
There are three styles of cows standing, grazing and reclining. But artists may paint, sculpt, transform and adorn the cow as they like.
CowParade Kansas City will consist of about 300 of these cow sculptures.
Look for them in herds as large as 25 from Ward Parkway to Kansas City, Kan., and from Lee's Summit, Mo., to the Northland area of Kansas City, Mo. Locations will include the Country Club Plaza, Crown Center, Swope Park, the zoo and Starlight Theater.
Organizers have rounded up businesses, clubs, families or individuals willing to donate $5,000 to sponsor each cow.
After a 15-week public display on the streets and in parks, many of the cows will be sold Oct. 6 during both a live and Internet auction.
Artists have been selected to decorate the cows based on design ideas submitted to a committee. The only rule was to avoid religious, pornographic or political themes.
The artists each received $1,000 honorariums for their work.
CowParades have been held in Chicago in 1999 and New York in 2000. More are planned for other cities.
The Chicago auction of cows raised more than $3 million for charity, including $1.4 million online and $2.1 million at the live auction assisted by Sotheby's. The average bid price on the 140 cows was nearly $25,000, with the top cow, "HANDsome," selling for $110,000.
The Lawrence artists who have been chosen to create cows for the CowParade are David Loewenstein, Kristin Dempsey, Susan McCarthy, and Jan Gaumnitz and Janet Satz, who are working together on one cow design.
As soon as Satz heard that the CowParade was coming to this area, she wanted to be a part of it.
"I think it's great for Kansas City it's a cow town," says Satz, who paints and makes collages. "I saw the way people reacted to the cows in Chicago, where I'm (originally) from. They loved 'em. People were climbing on them and touching them."
Loewenstein, who creates murals and mosaics, is creating a CowParade entry called "Co-Walligator."
"It's sort of the idea of a wolf in sheep's clothing or a Trojan horse. It's an alligator who has, in a very rudimentary way, disguised himself as a cow," he explains.
The other side of the cow reveals the full-length alligator, who is using stilts to walk around on. And inside the alligator's belly is a naked artist, painting a picture, who looks a lot like Loewenstein.
"They told me my cow was going to go in front of some restaurant on the Plaza that serves alligator. I'm not sure which one that would be," he says.
"It's a really goofy-looking thing. I think it will get the attention of kids. It's lighthearted."
McCarthy's entry, "Cow Grazing in the Flint Hills," is painted with pastoral scenes of that Kansas region.
"My idea is sort of the landscape is on the cow, but the cow is also on the landscape," she says.
Jazzing it up
Dempsey, an artist and illustrator, has painted her cow bright yellow and decorated it with colorful pictures of fruits and vegetables.
"One of the things I like to paint in my art is fruits and veggies. I thought this would be a good theme for Kansas City. My cow is called 'More Than Just Meat,'" she says.
"I thought the project sounded like fun a way to show your art in a big setting. I think it's a perfect town to have a CowParade."
Then there's the "Jazz Cow," the entry created by longtime friends Gaumnitz and Satz.
Their reclining cow is covered in brightly painted musical instruments. A clarinet runs down her backbone, saxophones follow the lines of her shoulders and front legs and her haunches are decorated with French horns.
"The challenges for us are trying to portray instruments that symbolize jazz, and yet they also fit in with the form of the cow that undulates all over," Gaumnitz says.
"You think of Kansas City, and you think of jazz," Satz explains. "When Ken Burns did his documentary on jazz (for public television), he kept flashing back to Kansas City all the time. I love jazz, and my husband loved it. It was just natural."