By Gina McGilliard
Local LGBT artist picked for statewide charity project
There’s a new cow in the neighborhood.
If you’ve recently been by The Studio Door art gallery in North Park, you may have noticed a partially painted life-sized cow sculpture. It’s the latest art project of out artist and gallery owner Patric Stillman, and the project, which is part of the Milk Loves Art campaign, aims to raise money for a good cause.
The California Milk Processor Board (CMPB) — famous for their wildly successful “Got Milk?” advertising campaign — put a call out to artists across the state to paint the cow sculptures and celebrate the theme, “California’s rich cultural heritage.”
With 30 cows made available to be painted, Stillman was among 13 professional artists who were chosen, along with 10 art students and celebrity amateur artist Jaleel White, known for playing Steve Urkel on the ’90s sitcom “Family Matters.”
The sculptures will be sold at an auction to raise money for Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times, a free camp that hosts more than 1,500 children and their families battling cancer each year. The camp offers stricken families a medically supervised break from the disease in a therapeutic outdoor environment, giving them the chance to participate in archery, horseback riding, arts and crafts and more.
First established in 1993, the CMPB has never undertaken a project of this scale before.
“We’ve wanted to do something that would celebrate both cows, which everybody seems to love, and art and families and kids, and we were looking for a way to bring all these things together,” said Steve James, executive director of CMPB.
“It’s kind of a win all the way around,” Stillman said. “Because the Got Milk? people are celebrating California artists and using all that creativity and inspiration. … Not only am I honored to be one of the few selected for the program, I think it’s such a wonderful opportunity to give back.”
George Yepes — a well-known muralist whose work has been displayed at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego as well as the Smithsonian Institution and various other high profile art venues — will be overseeing the creative phase of the project and painting a cow sculpture himself.
“Whenever there is a chance to get involved in bettering our community and enriching the lives of individuals through art, I’m more than happy to be part of it,” stated Yepes on the CMPB website.
The cow is Stillman’s first sculptural project. He decided his artistic concept for the cow would be to illustrate the historic U.S. Route 101, based off of a trail that connected California’s Spanish missions.
“There’s something so magical about this to me, that there are 21 missions along the coast,” he said. “And to go back in time, just think of this sort of dirt trail connecting these castles — even though I know they’re not castles, it just has that kind of magic in my mind — that you’re walking along or you’re on your horse and you’re traveling, and then you come across these buildings where you can sit down and meet with people and have a civilized moment before you get back on the trail.
“And then over time [the trail had] such importance that it became an actual highway, and eventually that same highway sort of came to represent California’s lifestyle, with all the surf culture,” Stillman said.
The other side of the cow will have the words “Greetings from California — Historic California US 101 Route” in lettering modeled after pre-World War II fruit crates, which were also his inspiration for the rest of the artwork’s imagery.
“They have such a beautiful graphic quality, so I thought that would really underscore my historic California theme,” said Stillman, who was born and raised in the Minnesota farmlands but moved to California as a young man.
Stillman said customers to the art gallery have seemed to sometimes be taken aback by the cow.
“I hear people mooing as they walk by,” Stillman said. “But people love it. People stop and take photos with it. At night, the gallery is dark and there are lights on the cow. So as you’re driving by there’s this cow in the window of this building. It’s very exciting.”
It is unknown who potential buyers of the cow sculptures could be, but a wide variety of people and organizations are expected.
“Until we see what the cows are, the whimsical nature of these sculptures I think will sort of dictate who the buyers would be, whether a children’s hospital, or a school or a library or municipality or just a private individual who wants to donate it to a children’s facility,” James said.
Stillman was given a Jan. 1 deadline and is still actively painting the cow. To see his cow sculpture up close, stop by The Studio Door, located at 3750 30th St., in North Park. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, noon – 7 p.m., and Sunday from noon – 4 p.m. Visit thestudiodoor.com.
—Editor Morgan M. Hurley contributed to this report.