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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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15 Things You Should Know About Georgia O’Keeffe

Georgia O’Keeffe’s enchanting floral still lifes are now a deeply ingrained part of American culture—so much so that they often eclipse her other colorful accomplishments. For a more complete portrait of the artist, who was born 130 years ago today, brush up on these 15 little-known facts about her.

1. FLOWER PAINTINGS MAKE UP A SMALL PERCENTAGE OF O'KEEFFE'S BODY OF WORK.

Though O'Keeffe is most famous for her lovingly rendered close-ups of flowers—like Black Iris and Oriental Poppies—these make up just about 200 of her 2000-plus paintings. The rest primarily depict landscapes, leaves, rocks, shells, and bones.

2. SHE REJECTED SEXUAL INTERPRETATIONS OF HER PAINTINGS.

For decades, critics assumed that O'Keeffe's flowers were intended as homages—or at the very least, allusions—to the female form. But in 1943, she insisted that they had it all wrong, saying, “Well—I made you take time to look at what I saw and when you took time to really notice my flowers you hung all your own associations with flowers on my flower and you write about my flower as if I think and see what you think and see of the flower—and I don’t.” So there.

3. SHE WAS NOT A NATIVE OF THE AMERICAN SOUTHWEST.


Joe Raedle/Getty Images

O'Keeffe was actually born on a Wisconsin dairy farm. She'd go on to live in Chicago; New York City; New York’s Lake George; Charlottesville, Virginia; and Amarillo, Texas. She first visited New Mexico in 1917, and as she grew older, her trips there became more and more frequent. Following the death of her husband in 1946, she moved to New Mexico permanently.

4. HER FAVORITE STUDIO WAS THE BACKSEAT OF A MODEL-A FORD.

In an interview with C-SPAN, Carolyn Kastner, curator of the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, explained how the artist customized her car for this use: "She would remove the driver's seat. Then she would unbolt the passenger car, turn it around to face the back seat. Then she would lay the canvas on the back seat as an easel and paint inside her Model-A Ford."

Painting inside the car allowed O'Keeffe to stay out of the unrelenting desert sun, where she painted many of her later works. The Model-A also provided a barrier from the bees that would gather as the day wore on.

5. O'KEEFFE ALSO PAINTED SKYSCRAPERS.

While nature was her main source of inspiration, the time she spent in 1920s Manhattan spurred the creation of surreal efforts like New York With Moon, City Night and The Shelton with Sunspots.

6. O'KEEFFE IMMERSED HERSELF IN NATURE ...

While in New Mexico O’Keeffe spent summers and falls at her Ghost Ranch, putting up with the region's hottest, most stifling days in order to capture its most vivid colors. (The rest of the year she stayed at her second home, located in the small town of Abiquiu.) When she wasn't painting in her Model-A, O'Keeffe often camped out in the harsh surrounding terrain, to keep close to the landscapes that inspired her.

7. …WHATEVER THE WEATHER.

The artist would rig up tents from tarps, contend with unrelenting downpours, and paint with gloves on when it got too cold. She went camping well into her 70s and enjoyed a well-documented rafting trip with photographer Todd Webb at age 74. Her camping equipment is occasionally exhibited at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe.

8. SHE MARRIED THE MAN BEHIND HER FIRST GALLERY SHOW.

"At last, a woman on paper!" That’s what modernist photographer and gallery owner Alfred Stieglitz cried when he first saw O'Keeffe's abstract charcoal drawings. He was so enthusiastic about this series of sketches that he put them on display—before consulting their creator.

When O'Keeffe arrived at his gallery, she wasn't pleased, and brusquely introduced herself: "I am Georgia O'Keeffe and you will have to take these pictures down." Despite their rocky beginnings, Stieglitz and O'Keeffe quickly made amends, and went on to become partners in art and in life.

9. O'KEEFFE AND STIEGLITZ WROTE 25,000 PAGES OF LOVE LETTERS TO EACH OTHER.

When the pair met in 1916, he was famous and married; she was unknown and 23 years his junior. All the same, they began writing to each other often (sometimes two or three times a day) and at length (as many as 40 pages at a time). These preserved writings chart the progression of their romance—from flirtation to affair to their marriage in 1924—and even document their marital struggles.

10. SHE SERVED AS A MUSE TO OTHER ARTISTS.

Thanks in part to Stieglitz, O'Keeffe was one of the most photographed women of the 20th century. Stieglitz made O'Keeffe the subject of a long-term series of portraits meant to capture individuals as they aged, and she made for a striking model. Though he died in 1946, the project lived on as other photographers sought out O'Keeffe in order to capture the beloved artist against the harsh New Mexican landscapes she loved so dearly.

O'Keeffe later wrote:

When I look over the photographs Stieglitz took of me—some of them more than sixty years ago—I wonder who that person is. It is as if in my one life I have lived many lives. If the person in the photographs were living in this world today, she would be quite a different person—but it doesn't matter—Stieglitz photographed her then.

11. SHE QUIT PAINTING THREE TIMES.

The first break spanned several years (the exact number is a matter of debate), when O'Keeffe took on more stable jobs to help her family through financial troubles. In the early 1930s, a nervous breakdown led to her hospitalization, and caused her to set aside her brushes for more than a year.

In the years leading up to her death in 1986, failing eyesight forced O'Keeffe to give up painting entirely. Until then, she fought hard to keep working, enlisting assistants to prepare her canvas and mix her oil paints for pieces like 1977's Sky Above Clouds/Yellow Horizon and Clouds. She managed to use watercolors until she was 95.

12. AFTER GOING BLIND, SHE TURNED TO SCULPTING.


By Alfred Stieglitz - Phillips, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Although her vision eventually made painting impossible, O'Keeffe's desire to create was not squelched. She memorably declared, "I can see what I want to paint. The thing that makes you want to create is still there.” O'Keeffe began experimenting with clay sculpting in her late 80s, and continued with it into her 96th year.

13. SHE'S THE MOTHER OF AMERICAN MODERNISM.

Searching for what she called “the Great American Thing,” O'Keeffe was part of the Stieglitz Circle, which included such lauded early modernists as Charles Demuth, Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, Paul Strand, and Edward Steichen. By the mid-1920s, she had become the first female painter to gain acclaim alongside her male contemporaries in New York's cutthroat art world. Her distinctive way of rendering nature in shapes and forms that made them seem simultaneously familiar and new earned her a reputation as a pioneer of the form.

14. SHE BLAZED NEW TRAILS FOR FEMALE ARTISTS.

In 1946, O’Keeffe became the first woman to earn a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. Twenty-four years later, a Whitney Museum of American Art retrospective exhibit introduced her work to a new generation. Fifteen years after that, O'Keeffe was included in the inaugural slate of artists chosen to receive the newly founded National Medal of Arts for her contribution to American culture.

15. SHE WASN'T FEARLESS, BUT SHE REJECTED FEAR.

O'Keeffe was purported to have said, "I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do."

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11 Fascinating Facts About Claude Monet
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Oscar-Claude Monet is beloved for his series of oil paintings depicting water lilies, serene gardens, and Japanese footbridges. The French painter manipulated light and shadow to portray landscapes in a groundbreaking way, upending the traditional art scene in the late 19th century. In honor of his birthday, here are 11 things you might not know about the father of French Impressionism.

1. HIS ARTISTIC TALENT WAS EVIDENT AT AN EARLY AGE.

Born in Paris in 1840, Monet began drawing as a young boy, sketching his teachers and neighbors. He attended a school of the arts and, as a young teenager, sold his charcoal caricatures of local figures. He also learned about oil painting and en plein air (outdoors) painting, which later became a hallmark of his style. Monet’s mother encouraged his artistic talent, but his father, who owned a grocery store, wanted him to focus on the grocery business. After his mother died in 1857, Monet left home to live with his aunt and, against his father’s wishes, study art.

2. HE SERVED AS A SOLDIER IN ALGERIA.

In 1861, Monet was drafted into the army. Forced to join the First Regiment of African Light Cavalry, he left Paris for Algeria, a territory that was then controlled by France. Monet's father offered to pay for his son’s discharge if he would promise to give up painting, but Monet refused to abandon art. After serving one year of his seven-year military commitment, Monet got sick with typhoid fever. His aunt paid to get him released from the army, and she enrolled him in art school in Paris.

3. HE WAS SO FRUSTRATED WITH LIFE THAT HE JUMPED INTO THE SEINE.

In his late 20s, Monet was frustrated with the Académie, France’s art establishment. He hated creating formulaic artwork, copying the art that hung in the Louvre, and painting scenes from ancient Greek and Roman myths. Although he tried to get his paintings into the Académie’s art exhibits, his art was almost always rejected. Depressed and struggling to support himself and his family financially, Monet jumped off a bridge in 1868. He survived his fall into the Seine and began spending time with other artists who also felt frustrated by the Académie’s restrictions.

4. RENOIR CREATED A META PAINTING OF HIM.


Renoir's "Monet Painting in His Garden at Argenteuil." Public Domain // Wikimedia Commons

In 1873, Monet was spending his summer in a rented home in Argenteuil, a suburb of Paris. His friend Pierre-Auguste Renoir visited Monet to spend time together and paint outdoors. The two men connected over their mutual dislike of the traditional style of the Académie. During his visit, Renoir painted Monet painting in his garden, creating a painting within a painting. The painting, straightforwardly called Monet Painting in His Garden at Argenteuil, depicts Monet standing outside as he paints flowers.

5. HE INDIRECTLY HELPED COIN THE TERM "IMPRESSIONISM."

Monet created a community with other frustrated artists, a group that included Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Edgar Degas, and Paul Cézanne. The group, which called itself The Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculptors, Printmakers, etc., organized an exhibition in 1874. The exhibition included groundbreaking artwork featuring bright, vivid colors and loose, seemingly spontaneous brushwork. After a critic compared one of Monet’s paintings—"Impression, Sunrise"—to an unfinished sketch (or "impression"), the term "Impressionists" caught on to describe the artists who displayed these radically different, new paintings.

6. HIS SECOND WIFE WAS IRRATIONALLY JEALOUS OF HIS FIRST WIFE.

Monet frequently painted his first wife, Camille Doncieux, who worked as a model and had been in a relationship with the artist since the mid 1860s (they married in 1870). The couple had two sons, but Camille died, perhaps of uterine cancer, in 1879. Alice Hoschedé, the wife of a businessman and art collector, had been living with the Monets after her husband went bankrupt, and Monet may have started an affair with her while Camille was still alive. After Camille's death, Hoschedé jealously destroyed all of her letters and photographs. Despite this, Hoschedé (along with her six children) lived with Monet and his two kids, and the couple married in 1892 after Hoschedé’s husband died. (Fun fact: One of Hoschedé’s daughters later married one of Monet’s sons, so the step-siblings became husband and wife.)

7. HE IMPORTED HIS WATER LILIES FROM AROUND THE WORLD.

From 1883 until his death in 1926, Monet lived in Giverny, a village in northern France. Over the years, he hired gardeners to plant everything from poppies to apple trees in his garden, turning it into a beautiful, tranquil place for him to paint. Finally wealthy from sales of his paintings, Monet invested serious money into his garden. He put a Japanese footbridge across his pond, which he famously painted, and he imported water lilies from Egypt and South America. Although the local city council told him to remove the foreign plants so they wouldn’t poison the water, Monet didn’t listen. For the last 25 years of his life, he painted the water lilies in a series of paintings that showcased the plants in varying light and textures.

8. HE PAID A GARDENER TO DUST HIS WATER LILIES.

As Monet’s garden expanded, he hired six full-time employees to tend to it. One gardener’s job was to paddle a boat onto the pond each morning, washing and dusting each lily pad. Once the lilies were clean, Monet began painting them, trying to capture what he saw as the light reflected off the water.

9. HIS CRITICS MOCKED HIS VISION PROBLEMS.


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Around 1908 when he was in his late 60s, Monet began having trouble with his vision. Diagnosed with cataracts in 1912, he later described his inability to see the full color spectrum: "Reds appeared muddy to me, pinks insipid, and the intermediate or lower tones escaped me." When he became legally blind in 1922, he continued painting by memorizing the locations of different colors of paint on his palette. Monet delayed getting risky cataract surgery until 1923, and critics mocked him for his blurry paintings, suggesting that his Impressionist style was due to his failing vision rather than his artistic brilliance. After two cataract surgeries, Monet wore tinted glasses to correct his distorted color perception and may have been able to see ultraviolet light.

10. IN 2015, THE WORLD DISCOVERED A NEW MONET PASTEL.

In 2015, an art dealer in London discovered an unknown Monet pastel that had been hidden behind another Monet drawing that he had bought at a 2014 auction in Paris. The pastel depicts the lighthouse and jetty in Le Havre, the port in France where Monet lived as a child. Art scholars authenticated the pastel as an authentic Monet artwork and dated it to 1868, around the time he jumped into the Seine.

11. TOURISTS CAN VISIT HIS HOME AND GARDENS.


MIGUEL MEDINA // AFP // Getty Images

In 1926, Monet died of lung cancer. Starting in 1980, his former home in Giverny has been open to tourists to see his gardens, woodcut prints, and mementos. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people visit Giverny to walk through the artist’s famous garden and refurbished home. Besides looking at a variety of flowers and trees, visitors can also see Monet’s bedroom, studio, and blue sitting-room.

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