Remember Chicago’s Cows on Parade public art campaign? Or perhaps the tri-motor planes of Lansing, Ill.?

Evanston aldermen tonight are scheduled to vote on a proposal to direct the city’s Public Art Committee to explore coming up with something similar for Evanston.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, came up with the idea for a coordinated art project in Evanston’s business and commercial districts.

A memo prepared by city staff describes several possible flavors of the project.

One might have a common object representative of Evanston — a lighthouse, perhaps, cast in fiberglass with copies painted by local artists and positioned around the business districts.

Another could involve original art projects coordinated with the proposed upgrades to the CTA’s Purple Line stations.

Or it could involve individual pieces of public art designed to reflect the identity of each of the business districts.

At least two Chicago-area firms — AFS Fiberglass Studio and  Cowpainters — produce the fiberglass sculptures that could be used as the basis of a temporary art campaign.

The cows project, launched in Chicago in 1999, reportedly has been duplicated — often with other animals or objects as the subject — in hundreds of other towns, according to the staff memo. It says local artists are typically paid about $1,000 to paint each of the sculptures to be displayed.

Some towns have reportedly covered the cost of the project by auctioning off the sculptures, others have sought grant funding or imposed additional fees on building permits or come up with some other approach to cover the costs. 

Above: A painted fiberglass replica of a tri-motor plane outside a shop in Lansing, Ill., part of an art project there, from the AFS Fiberglass Studio website.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. This is a great idea for Evanston

    I’ve kinda collected books about these public art dislays when I can find them.  Don’t forget the Cool Globes that were so great a few years ago, and Suite Home Chicago that was "chairs" and "couches."  Lincoln Park Zoo hosted the Sears Company collection of artwork it had sponsored all over the country that included Horses in Arizona, Moose in Maine, Pigs in Cleveland, Salmon in Seattle, and Buffalo in Buffalo Grove.

    We visit Grants Pass, Oregon, regularly, and one year it had on the streets darling chainsaw carved black bears.  Two years ago the city’s artists took out very old doors from a beloved building that had been damaged in a fire and these became painted and sculpted doors throught the downtown area.  They were terrific.  In Victoria BC we saw fabulous Orca Whales.  In Washington DC, of course, donkeys and elephants.  And who can forget the Iowa City, Iowa, figures from American Gothic all dressed up in interesting costumes.

    The great thing about these kinds of art projects is that so many different groups can sponsor an artwork and so many different kids of artists can create one.  Every school in Evanston should have one to work on, and in Evanston you can display them from Central and Crawford, west to the bridges over the channel, into Northwestern sculpure park, and south to Howard.  A walking tour map would take visitors all over the city.

    A scupture in the distinctive shape of our very own lighthouse is a good idea:  Reflecting the Past, Present and Future of Evanston.   Let’s artists reflect on the maritime history of Evanston and to project further the symbolic idea of what lighthouses do.

    Let’s do it!

  2. Oh how cute

    Just what the city needs. More dust collectors to suck up money the city doesn’t have to spend, on things no one needs, that serve no real purpose.

    HEY!!! Sounds like the city council.

    Great Idea, Ms Rainey. As said above- Let’s do it. A scupture in the distinctive shape of our very own aldermen is a good idea: Reflect on the Past, Present, and what little Future will be left after the tax and spend city council sends the city to join the Lady Elgin.


  3. Public art for Evanston

    Perhaps we might combine this with public bicycle racks in distinctive forms created by artists and placed, along with artist designed benches, strategically around the city.

  4. Public art project

    The problem with the lighthouses (or the cows, donkeys and elephants, etc.) is that they are too confining for the artist. Mexico City had a competition for artist designed benches and most are fabulous and wildly varied.

    Made of bronze or steel or aluminum or fiberglass, the benches on Avenida Reforma that are favorites have been informally voted on by their constant use. Similarly, the poorly designed ones have been neglected by the public and most have been removed.

    There is a bronze hippo with rounded out seats on its back that is highly polished by constant use. There is a Leonora Carrington surreal bird where workers often eat their lunch and an enameled steel birds’ nest regularly occupied by young couples talking earnestly.

    I believe that they were mostly funded by businesses. The only restrictions were that they should not be able to be slept on and should be low maintenance. A few look as though there should have been a rule about safety.

    They can be seen on-line. Just put in "Mexico City" and "benches" and photos by tourists, by photographers etc. will pop up. The lovely sculpted chairs by Indira Johnson in Raymond Park similarly attract strollers to sit and talk. We have other places around town where such a project would fit right in

  5. Public art

    Fiberglass kitsch is passe. Let’s put real art up around lightposts, as benches, bike racks, sidewalk paintings, building murals: real work by real artists, not fill in the numbers on a prefabricated blank, turning out cutesy tootsy stuff that has only superficial value.

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