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11 Public Art Projects You Might Have Missed

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For more than a decade, cities all over the world have been regularly invaded during the height of the tourist season by colorfully painted statues of animals or objects, all in an effort to raise money for local charities. The subjects for these projects range from the mundane to the bizarre, but they're always a big hit with the community, as shown by the hundreds of thousands of dollars that are spent when the art pieces are auctioned off after the exhibit has ended. Unless you're a connoisseur of cows, here are a few of these public art projects that you might have missed.

1. CowParade – 50+ cities worldwide

When? 1998 – today

What? Most of America first heard about CowParade when the brightly painted bovines visited Chicago in 1999. However, the cows actually appeared first in Zurich, Switzerland, as the Land in Sicht ("Countryside in view") exhibit in 1998. Since then, CowParade has become a worldwide phenomenon, raising millions for non-profit groups in more than 50 cities throughout the world, including New York, London, Tokyo, Boston, Paris, Milan, and Buenos Aires. There have been over 2,500 cows created by more than 5,000 artists, each putting their unique, local spin on the design. Aside from well-known names from the modern art field, celebrities like fashion designer Michael Graves, filmmaker David Lynch, and the band Radiohead have contributed their own designs. And first-name acts like Oprah, Ringo, and Elton have all purchased cows from the benefit auction that marks the end of each parade.


How Much? $20+ million to date. The highest price paid for a cow at auction was $146,000 for Waga-Moo-Moo (at left), a cow covered in a mosaic of thousands of pieces of Waterford Crystal, created by fashion designer John Rocha during Dublin's CowParade in 2003.


Who? Many local children's charities for each city, including Special Olympics, children's hospitals, and after-school organizations.

2. Go Superlambananas! – Liverpool, England

When? June – August 2008

What? Liverpool was selected as the "European Capital of Culture" for 2008 and used the event to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the city's landmark statue, Taro Chiezo's Superlambanana. This strange art piece is a combination of two of Liverpool's most popular historic imports – sheep and bananas. The original statue is 17 feet tall and weighs nearly eight tons, but for the art project, 125 6-foot fiberglass replicas were used instead.
(Image via Flickr user Haversack.)


How Much? £550,000 for the first 69, auctioned at a large gala celebration (75% went to charity). About £134,000 for another 30 that were auctioned online (25% went to charity). The rest were purchased individually. The highest bid went for 'Mandy' Mandala Superlambanana (at left), which sold for £25,000 and now resides at the World Museum in Liverpool.


Who? Alder Hey Children's Hospital, University Hospital's Centre for Oncology, the Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital, and the Alzheimer's Society.

Liverpool also hosted the "Go Penguins!" event from 2009 to 2010, in which 142 5-foot-tall penguins were painted and sold at auction, raising £40,000 for Liverpool charities.

3. Elephant Parade – Various European cities

When? September 2007 – today

What? The Elephant Parade project started in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, with 44 5-foot-tall elephants. Since then, the elephants have spread to Antwerp, London, Milan, Copenhagen, and many more cities, raising hundreds of thousands of Euros at every show.
(Image via Flickr user Loz Flowers.)


How Much? €248,500 in Rotterdam, and even better at every showing since. The biggest tally thus far was London in 2010, which raised £4 million. The highest single bid for an elephant – £155,000 – was for Jack Vettriano's elephant, The Singing Butler Rides Again (at left), based on his famous painting, The Singing Butler.


Who? The Asian Elephant Foundation, a Netherlands-based group that supports animal hospitals and buys land for the preservation of Asian elephants.

4. Buddy Bears – Various cities throughout the world

When? 2001 – today

What? Buddy Bears started in Berlin as a one-time charity event. 350 bears were painted and sold, raising money for a local children's charity. However, the project was so well received that it grew into the United Buddy Bears concept in 2002. The United Buddy Bears are about 6 feet tall with their arms in the air and are always displayed side-by-side in a unifying circle, so they appear to be holding hands. The message behind the bears is to promote peace through shared cultural education and experiences. United Buddy Bears travel the world representing 140 countries recognized by the United Nations, stopping in places like Tokyo, Sydney, Cairo, Jerusalem, Helsinki, and Pyongyang; international film star Jackie Chan helped bring the bears to Hong Kong in 2004. At the end of every event, some of the bears are sold for charity and new ones are commissioned to ensure there are always 140 in the circle.


How Much? €1.7 million as of August 2011


Who? UNICEF or another local children's charity for the host city

5. GuitarTown – Austin, TX

When? November 2006 – August 2007


What? 35 10-foot-tall Gibson guitars, as well as 30 playable instruments. To up the ante, some of the statues and instruments were signed by musicians like Ray Benson, Pete Townshend, Emmylou Harris, ZZ Top, Dwight Yoakam, and Norah Jones, and celebrities like Chuck Norris, Billy Bob Thornton, Dennis Quaid, and Quentin Tarantino.


How Much? $589,000. Two guitars – Reflections of Austin and Striking Texas Gold (at left) – sold for $55,000 each.


Who? Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, Austin Museum of Art, Austin Children's Museum, and American Youthworks, an organization working with at-risk kids.

6. DinoMite Days – Pittsburgh, PA

When? May – September 2003


What? 100 fiberglass dinosaurs in three different designs:
- Tyrannosaurus rex – 7' tall, 200lbs
- Torosaurus/Triceratops – 5'6" tall, 200lbs
- Stegosaurus – 5'6" tall, 200 lbs


How Much? $290,000. The highest bid was for a stegosaurus, Seymour Sparklesaurus, for $17,5000. The Steelers' Jack Lambert-inspired T. Rex, Splatasaurus (at left), complete with football helmet and pads, came in a close second at $15,000.


Who? The Carnegie Museum of Natural History

7. Wow! Gorillas – Bristol, UK

When? July – September 2011


What? To celebrate its 175th birthday, the Bristol Zoo commissioned 61 life-sized gorillas based on one of their most famous and beloved residents, a gorilla named Alfred, who died in 1948.


How Much? £427,300. The best seller was Gorisambard (at left), a top hat-wearing simian, which sold for £23,000.


Who? Ape Action Africa, a Cameroon-based gorilla conservation program sponsored by the zoo, and the Bristol Children's Hospital

8. Moose in the City – Toronto, Canada

When? April – October 2000

What? 326 life-sized moose, making it one of the largest single-city exhibits of this kind. Seven moose were also sent as diplomats to Chicago and Sydney during the 2000 Summer Olympics. The antlers were made separately from the rest of the body and attached after the fact. Unfortunately, this method made the antlers pretty easy to remove, and vandals took the opportunity to steal them. The city offered a monetary reward for returned antlers, but this only made the problem worse, as people started stealing them just so they could turn them in.


How Much? $1.4 million


Who? 75 different Toronto organizations benefited from the moose sales, including the Canadian Olympic Association's Athlete Grant, the Daily Bread Food Bank, the Toronto Public Library, and many local hospitals and kids' programs.

9. Sea Cows for Kids / Big Cats for Kids – Jacksonville, FL


When? 2004 – 2005 / 2006 – 2007

What? 43 manatees to honor the region's native species / 53 jaguars as a nod to the city's NFL team. The manatees saw some pretty inventive designs, including a fan favorite, Kling-A-Ding, the Klingon Warrior Sea Cow. Not to be outdone, Super City, Super Kitty was there to save the day.


How Much? The manatees raised more than $215,000; the jaguars reached $220,000. The highest price paid for a manatee was $6,000, and the jaguars topped out at $12,000.


Who? All proceeds went to benefit a charitable organization founded by former NBA player and Jacksonville native, Otis Smith, called, fittingly enough, the Otis Smith Kids Foundation. The organization provided after-school programs and summer camps for kids in poor neighborhoods. Sadly, these fund-raising efforts were not enough to prevent the Foundation from closing in August 2007.

Jacksonville also hosted the Turtle Trails art project in 2010, raising $150,000 for the Child Guidance Center, which offers mental health services to kids and families.

10. Peanuts on Parade – St. Paul, MN, and Santa Rosa, CA

When? St. Paul: 2000 – 2004 / Santa Rosa: 2005 – 2007, 2010

What? Starting in the summer of 2000, St. Paul, the birthplace of legendary cartoonist Charles Schulz, placed 101 Snoopy statues throughout the city. The next summer (2001) featured dozens of Charlie Brown statues, followed by Lucy (2002), Linus (2003), and finally, Snoopy on his doghouse, hanging out with Woodstock (2004). To celebrate the 60th anniversary of Peanuts, Schulz's adopted home of Santa Rosa continued the project with 55 Charlie Browns in 2005, 76 Woodstocks in 2006, 95 statues of Snoopy as Joe Cool in 2007, and then 30 Lucy statues in 2010.
(Image via Flickr user Augie Schwer.)


How Much? Numbers for the entire St. Paul project are hard to come by online, but the first auction of the Snoopy statues alone rake in more than $1 million. Santa Rosa brought in about $1.8 million over the life of the project, with the Flamingo Hotel shelling out $31,000 for a Joe Cool statue named Boom shaka laka laka and another $30,000 for Joe Cool Giant, signed by 42 current and past San Francisco Giants, including home run king Barry Bonds.


Who? Both cities used the money for art scholarships and art programs for young people, as well as bronze statues of Peanuts characters that have been installed in public places to commemorate Schulz's legacy.

11. The Trail of the Painted Ponies – Santa Fe, NM

When? 2001

What? 150 life-sized ponies scattered throughout New Mexico. The exhibit was such a big hit that a company was formed to keep the project going, but on a more collectible scale. Now, every year, they release new Painted Pony figurines, ranging in size from 7" to 9". They've even gotten a few celebrity designers on board, like Dolly Parton, Tony Curtis, and I Dream of Jeannie's Barbara Eden. With more than $11 million in sales, the Ponies have been called one of the hottest collectibles in the country.


How Much? About $500,000 during the original campaign, but they have continued their philanthropic ways to the tune of more than $1 million donated.


Who? Over the last 10 years, sales from Painted Ponies have helped numerous schools and non-profit organizations like Habitat for Humanity, the American Humane Society, the United Way, and St. Jude's Children's Hospital.

Did you get a chance to see any of these exhibits? Or maybe you've been to one of many projects like these? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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Courtesy of Nikon
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Microscopic Videos Provide a Rare Close-Up Glimpse of the Natural World
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Courtesy of Nikon

Nature’s wonders aren’t always visible to the naked eye. To celebrate the miniature realm, Nikon’s Small World in Motion digital video competition awards prizes to the most stunning microscopic moving images, as filmed and submitted by photographers and scientists. The winners of the seventh annual competition were just announced on September 21—and you can check out the top submissions below.

FIRST PRIZE

Daniel von Wangenheim, a biologist at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria, took first place with a time-lapse video of thale cress root growth. For the uninitiated, thale cress—known to scientists as Arabidopsis thalianais a small flowering plant, considered by many to be a weed. Plant and genetics researchers like thale cress because of its fast growth cycle, abundant seed production, ability to pollinate itself, and wild genes, which haven’t been subjected to breeding and artificial selection.

Von Wangenheim’s footage condenses 17 hours of root tip growth into just 10 seconds. Magnified with a confocal microscope, the root appears neon green and pink—but von Wangenheim’s work shouldn’t be appreciated only for its aesthetics, he explains in a Nikon news release.

"Once we have a better understanding of the behavior of plant roots and its underlying mechanisms, we can help them grow deeper into the soil to reach water, or defy gravity in upper areas of the soil to adjust their root branching angle to areas with richer nutrients," said von Wangenheim, who studies how plants perceive and respond to gravity. "One step further, this could finally help to successfully grow plants under microgravity conditions in outer space—to provide food for astronauts in long-lasting missions."

SECOND PRIZE

Second place went to Tsutomu Tomita and Shun Miyazaki, both seasoned micro-photographers. They used a stereomicroscope to create a time-lapse video of a sweating fingertip, resulting in footage that’s both mesmerizing and gross.

To prompt the scene, "Tomita created tension amongst the subjects by showing them a video of daredevils climbing to the top of a skyscraper," according to Nikon. "Sweating is a common part of daily life, but being able to see it at a microscopic level is equal parts enlightening and cringe-worthy."

THIRD PRIZE

Third prize was awarded to Satoshi Nishimura, a professor from Japan’s Jichi Medical University who’s also a photography hobbyist. He filmed leukocyte accumulations and platelet aggregations in injured mouse cells. The rainbow-hued video "provides a rare look at how the body reacts to a puncture wound and begins the healing process by creating a blood clot," Nikon said.

To view the complete list of winners, visit Nikon’s website.

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Art
‘American Gothic’ Became Famous Because Many People Saw It as a Joke
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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1930, Iowan artist Grant Wood painted a simple portrait of a farmer and his wife (really his dentist and sister) standing solemnly in front of an all-American farmhouse. American Gothic has since inspired endless parodies and is regarded as one of the country’s most iconic works of art. But when it first came out, few people would have guessed it would become the classic it is today. Vox explains the painting’s unexpected path to fame in the latest installment of the new video series Overrated.

According to host Phil Edwards, American Gothic made a muted splash when it first hit the art scene. The work was awarded a third-place bronze medal in a contest at the Chicago Art Institute. When Wood sold the painting to the museum later on, he received just $300 for it. But the piece’s momentum didn’t stop there. It turned out that American Gothic’s debut at a time when urban and rural ideals were clashing helped it become the defining image of the era. The painting had something for everyone: Metropolitans like Gertrude Stein saw it as a satire of simple farm life in Middle America. Actual farmers and their families, on the other hand, welcomed it as celebration of their lifestyle and work ethic at a time when the Great Depression made it hard to take pride in anything.

Wood didn’t do much to clear up the work’s true meaning. He stated, "There is satire in it, but only as there is satire in any realistic statement. These are types of people I have known all my life. I tried to characterize them truthfully—to make them more like themselves than they were in actual life."

Rather than suffering from its ambiguity, American Gothic has been immortalized by it. The country has changed a lot in the past century, but the painting’s dual roles as a straight masterpiece and a format for skewering American culture still endure today.

Get the full story from Vox below.

[h/t Vox]

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