One of the most memorable public art pieces that I have experienced was the Denver CowParade of 2006. This hallmark of my 7th year on earth started in the summer in 2006, and still is not over today. The idea was to scatter 100 cow statues all around Denver, all painted and designed in unique ways. Although the event itself came to a close in 2007, some of the most cherished cows still stand in the city today and they are a touchstone of Denver culture.
In many ways, Denver is a modernized cow town. Being in the west, and having its roots in mining and ranching, Denver first became a hub in order to serve, well, miners and ranchers. This is a fact we often forget in our era of technology and a booming health services industry, but the goal of these cows was to reconnect the population to that.
This idea was borrowed from Chicago, who had a similar exhibit in 1999, but it took on a Denver flavor as all of the cows were created by local artists, further intensifying the local pride felt in this instillation and in Denver as a whole. Many of the cows were Colorado-themed as well. There were ones with mountains painted on them, ones with the Colorado flag, and even one called “Cowabunga dude” that is a snowboarding cow.
One of the most frustrating parts about trying to write about this instillation is that it is hard to find photos. All 100 cows were not documented and put in to an archive, but that is also part of the event’s charm. It wasn’t supposed to bring national attention or show people how great Denver is. It was for Denverites by Denverites and unless you were around Denver in 2006, you don’t really get to see the power and beauty of it, and that is just how it’s supposed to be.