Painted cows being rounded up for auction

Dec. 13, 2012 @ 05:43 PM

Since August, about 80 fiberglass cows -- made up in paint, mosaics and other media -- have brightened the landscape of Durham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh. This weekend, the cows in the North Carolina CowParade will be taken off display and moved to Golden Belt in preparation to be auctioned to benefit N.C. Children’s Hospital.

Some cows will remain on view, but most will be moved to the studio space at Golden Belt, where many local artists designed and painted cows last summer, said Crystal Miller, director of the N.C. Children's Promise, the fundraising arm of N.C. Children's Hospital. Between 50 and 60 cows will be auctioned Feb. 2 at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium. Sponsors have pre-purchased some cows.

Some cows are showing the dings and dents of normal wear, but some of the beasts have endured more severe treatment from people. Vandals wrenched the bow tie from “Alexander Moo-lian Bow-vine,” the cow that clothing designer Alexander Julian created. The bowtie was never recovered. Another cow, “Cow House,” was the victim of a cow tipping and has since been repaired, Miller said. Pranksters also took a cow from the front lawn of Johnson Lexus of Durham. The cow was quickly found and returned.

The CowParade is both a public art event and a fundraiser. N.C. Children’s Hospital expects to make between $250,000 and $300,000 from the auction, Miller said. “People who buy one of these get to have North Carolina art history,” she said. This parade was the first such benefit in the state, and only one city, West Hartford, Conn., the home of the CowParade organization, has had a repeat event.

CowParade first began in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1998. More than 75 cities worldwide have since participated in CowParade. During its history, the event has raised more than $30 million for charitable organizations. Ringo Starr and Oprah Winfrey are among the celebrities who have purchased cows.