31 August 2015

Chicago: six horses and a cow

Imagine my surprise when, strolling down one of Chicago’s busiest inner-city avenues, I encountered a horse. And then another. And then not one but two horses standing close together. Not real horses, of course. These were life-size statues of horses, painted in bright and beautiful colours and designs.

These are the Horses of Honor, a commemoration of the more than 500 Chicago police officers who have lost their lives or been seriously injured in the line of duty since 1853. Local financial corporation Wintrust formed a partnership with the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation and together they commissioned a local manufacturer to make at least 75 of these horses, which were then designed and painted by local artists.

I only saw six of these charming horses but they have been installed in public places throughout the city. Various companies, organisations and individuals have sponsored the horses and that sponsorship money has gone to the Foundation to assist the families of Chicago’s fallen or catastrophically injured policemen and women.

Horses seem an appropriate animal to choose for such a scheme as they also pay tribute to the police officers of the Chicago Police Department Mounted Patrol Unit and their equine companions.

Horse at rear: Sponsor: AT&T. Artist: Jaime Foster. Honouring Patrolman Anthony N. Rizzato.
Horse closest to camera: Sponsors: Rock Band ‘Chicago’ and their manager Peter Schivarelli. Artist: Peter Bucks. Honouring P.O. Thomas E. Wortham IV.

Sponsor: Assurance Agency Ltd. Artist: Brittney Leeanne Williams. Honouring: Patrolman Edward L. Barron.

Sponsor: Zeller Realty Group. Artist: After School Matters. Honouring Sergeant Charles E. Eichhorst.

Sponsors: Roenigk Family Foundation, Guesthouse Hotel, and Inside Publications. Artist: Sheila Swann. Honouring P.O. Michael R. Bailey.

Sponsor: United Service Companies. Artist: Lori Murphy. Honouring Patrolman Terrence E. Loftus.

As well as my close encounters with these delightful horses, I also discovered a cow in downtown Chicago. That wasn’t what I’d call a close encounter as the cow was perhaps forty feet above me, fastened above the entrance to the rather chic Talbott Hotel.  
This was one of the cows from that now-famous herd, ‘Cows on Parade’, which went on to become an international phenomenon after first inhabiting the streets of Chicago back in the summer of 1999. Brainchild of Swiss artist Walter Knapp, who was influenced by a pride of lions on display in Zurich in 1986, ‘Cows on Parade’ debuted in Switzerland in 1998 and went on to be displayed in over fifty countries worldwide.

The concept has since taken off around the world and various countries have now had local artists, designers, celebrities paint, decorate, design cows, horses, sheep (and even eggs – remember the two blogs I wrote about New Zealand’s 2014 Whittaker’s Big Egg Hunt here and here). 

Either the objects are sponsored or, at the end of their exhibitions, are auctioned off to raise money for a nominated local charity. Apparently, during its 12-year run ‘Cows on Parade’ raised more than US$20 million for charities around the world, so not only are these painted creatures a fabulous way for cities to attract tourists and for artists to showcase their talents but they are also creating positive change around the world through their enormous fundraising achievements. A perfect combination!

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