By now you’ve probably “herd” of the Stampede, or seen one of the life-size, white, fiberglass ox around town — at Pennington Quality Market last weekend, in Stop & Shop on Denow Road or in front of Brick Farm Market in Hopewell.
As the first major initiative of the recently formed Hopewell Valley Arts Council, the Stampede is a public art exhibit that will place these oxen, once decorated and designed, in various locations around Hopewell Valley. Look for them on a local street corner, in a park or perhaps in the courtyard near your favorite restaurant.
Each of the 55 oxen are being designed by either an individual artist or a team of artists that has been matched with a local sponsor. Artists will decorate their ox during the coming months and the Arts Council hopes to begin placing oxen around the Valley later this summer.
(In the interest of full disclosure, Yours Truly is part of a team from the Hopewell Valley MOMS Club that was recently paired with a sponsor to design an ox depicting childhood in Hopewell Valley and we are beyond exciting to see our design become a reality this spring!)
My first encounter with this type of public art installation was when I moved to Washington, D.C. in the fall of 2002 amidst the “Party Animals” exhibit. One hundred donkeys and one hundred elephants had been decorated in whimsical fashion and placed in various locations around the city. They were fun to spot and snap pictures with, and I remember them being auctioned off and even placed in lucky bidders’ homes after the exhibit finished.
Other similar exhibits have taken place in New York, North Carolina, Chicago and other sites around the world and are modeled after an idea introduced in Zurich, Switzerland. In 1998, over 800 decorated cows were placed throughout Zurich’s landscape, drawing worldwide attention and attracting thousands of local and foreign visitors. The exhibit not only brings art and creativity into the everyday world, but offers exposure for local artists and businesses and builds a terrific sense of community as groups and organizations work together on the project.
In addition to the public art exhibit, events tied to the Stampede will take place throughout the year such as music festivals, art exhibits and other cultural programs to raise awareness of Hopewell Valley’s heritage, promote educational participation, increase the visibility of the region’s artists and businesses, and boost tourism. The project will culminate in an auction of the oxen to raise money to benefit the Arts Council as well as fund future projects and events to increase awareness and appreciation of the arts locally.
Later this month, the oxen designs will be displayed in a show at Capital Health’s Roma Bank Art and Healing Gallery. Artists have already begun working on their designs, so keep an eye out for the Stampede and related events in the coming months.
More information is available online at: http://hvartscouncil.org.