“Horses Across the Valley” art project hopes to raise funds, consciousness

‘Horses Across the Valley’ art project hopes to raise funds, consciousness
By Dana Bartholomew, Staff Writer LA Daily News
Posted: DailyNews.com

For public art, Chicago herded fiberglass cows, Seattle paraded painted pigs and Los Angeles flew guardian angels. The San Fernando Valley may soon dip into its equestrian past and trot out hundreds of horses across the Valley. “We’re looking at 200 to 250 horses all over the Valley,” said project founder Scott Sterling of the Public Art Initiative for the Museum of the San Fernando Valley. “At every single corporate headquarters, Burbank airport, Van

Nuys civic center.”The purpose is to bring culture and art back to the San Fernando Valley. And what better way to do that than with such a symbolic animal?”

The “Horses Across the Valley” project will be launched on Thursday during a museum lecture on Valley horse and movie history. It was explorer Gaspar de Portola who rode his steed into the Valley and California to claim it for his native Spain. The horse was then harnessed by Spanish missionaries and generations of Valley farmers. It became the mainstay of  Valley movie Westerns. And it was bred for racing by Valley movie stars, from Betty Grable to Barbara Stanwyck.  So it was natural to propose a public art project featuring life-size fiberglass horses, decorated by individual artists and placed in strategic places across the Valley.

The “Horses Across the Valley” promoters hope to acquire corporate sponsors and individual donors to raise between $2 million and $3 million for the museum, which is seeking a permanent home. Proceeds will also be shared with the San Fernando Valley Arts Council, Valley Arts Alliance, and local horse-based charities. Like “A Community of Angels,” which planted angels across the city a decade ago, the museum’s Public Art Initiative hopes to acquire sponsors, commission the artists, then ultimately auction off the horses. If all goes well, the horses will debut in a Spring 2013 gala, appear in a moving “Horses on Parade” down Ventura

Boulevard, then be exhibited for about a year, Sterling said. “I think it’s a heroic project, a really big project that pertains especially to the San Fernando Valley,” said Gerald Fecht, president of the museum. “It’s high time we took on something that tells the whole world we’re here.”

Animals as public art first appeared in Zurich in 1998, which placed 800 decorated fiberglass cows throughout the landscape.  The next year, Chicago featured a “Cows on Parade,” drawing 10 million viewers and $200 million to its economy. Sterling, a general contractor, is a Valley native whose sister Stacey painted one of 100 pigs on parade in Seattle.  He said the Valley art horses can stimulate business and tourism. And it can spawn “Horsin’ Around” workshops to

teach history to Valley kids.  “I am ecstatic – for the Valley, for history and for the arts,” Sterling said. “This is my Valley. I want culture to be elevated. I don’t want people to think the Valley is a cruddy place. “Those great steeds will inspire us all, and help stimulate the economy … I guarantee you: This will be the biggest thing ever to hit L.A.”