Brightly-colored bovines are raising money for The Jimmy Fund – here's how

The Jimmy Fund is celebrating 75 years with a fundraiser turned public art installation

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This summer you might spot some brightly colored bovines in the Boston area. They’re part of a public art installation called a Cow Parade – this particular parade benefits the Jimmy Fund. 



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"Our mission is to cure cancer and provide excellent patient care," Suzanne Fountain, vice president of The Jimmy Fund said. This year, they’re celebrating 75 years and decided the cows would be a fun way to mark the occasion.  

"They have messages of hope, of love and of course, dedications to all of our sports teams," she explained.

It takes a village to pull this kind of thing off – 60 artists ages ranging from 10 to 82, 20% of them BIPOC, 55% women, all coming together to create something inspirational.  

Maryann Zschau was responsible for commissioning the artists and getting the project off the ground. The painting process started in January 

"I was here two or three times a week watching them create them from 75 blank cows that we're here to now 75 painted cows just as of a few days ago," Zschau said.  

The artists come from different backgrounds and have different motivations for participating in the event. We spoke to four of them ahead of the official parade kickoff.

"We have a teacher, Miss Burrell, who was treated by Dana-Farber and really attributes like her, them saving her life. And so our students are directly connected to this organization via her experience," Boston public schools teacher Ari Hauben said.

Ari Hauben works as an art teacher at Boston Public Schools and worked with his students to decorate a pair of cow sculptures to benefit The Jimmy Fund.

Hauben is an art teacher at the Melvin H. King South End Academy in Boston and an artist based out of the Fort Point neighborhood. When he was contacted about the Cow Parade he thought it would be a great opportunity for him to bring his students into the experience. 

“With my students, what we try to do is build cultural capital, which essentially is them finding their place in the world. And I think when you can do it in a way that is also doing good and shows them how art fits into the world and also gives them access to things that they wouldn't otherwise see. And they're like here, do participate in in the world that they then become like sort of better stewards in society."

His cows, an adult and a calf, are named Boston and Public, in honor of his district and the students. Both statues are covered in words created by laser-cut stencils and spray paint. 

"We worked with the English department just to choose words that I think allow the reflection of our students’ experience within sort of the Boston Public School and then also sort of reflective Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund are about which is I mean, you can see some of the things like, you know, power and imagine and progress and unity.”  

Franklin Marval is an artist and community activist who works out of the Humphreys Street Studios in Dorchester.

Franklin Marval is an artist and community activist who works out of the Humphreys Street Studios in Dorchester. He was commissioned along with several others for the project. His cow, which is titled “More Love is Okay,” is all about heart and hope for a bright future. 

"There is nothing more beautiful than using your art to help this group of people who work daily to help many people,” Franklin Marval said in Spanish. 

He said he’s happy to be part of the project because it represents what good things can happen when people come together. 

His cow will be placed under the Citgo sign, an iconic Boston skyline shot. 

Artists Wilson and Elson Fortes work out of Humphreys Street Studios in Dorchester and own a small business called CrazyGoodz. They got involved in the Cow Parade because they like to do good in the community.

Artists Wilson and Elson Fortes also work out of the Humphreys Street studios and own a small business called CrazyGoodz. They decided to use the Celtics as an inspiration to give back to the community.

“We like to be part of stuff like this doing something different for a good cause," Elson said.

Their cow, named Lucky, is covered with newspaper clips of Celtics coverage dating back to the 1980s, and wears a CrazyGoodz custom-made jersey all his own. 

"We decided to do the Celtics because we live in Boston, we from Boston, so we wanted to have something that would bring the whole history about Boston especially when it comes to Celtics," explained Wilson. 

"You can see the progress of a franchise, the history behind it, and you can see what makes the Celtics great," Elson added. 

"If you look at any part of the cow, you can, no matter if you was born in the eighties or early before, before even the eighties till now, you can see you can pinpoint to where you was at at a specific moment. And that's one of the things that we we try and incorporate. So it's basically like a documentary."

On the day of our interview, the brothers were hand stitching Lucky’s jersey, meticulous work after adding the newspaper clips piece by piece. 

"It takes time. It also, too, it’s also patience, too. But for something great you got to have patience for it, and people can appreciate, people can look at it and just look at it as they stand next to the cow and just gaze at it.

All of these stories and inspirations come together at the VDA in Somerville, where the cows are packaged up and prepared for their adventure.  

David Breen, who is the principle designer and founder of the VDA, has personal reasons for getting involved. 

"My wife was diagnosed 12 years ago with breast cancer, and she's still here because the Dana Farber."

He added that offering up his space and watching the energy that goes into it makes him proud 

"I would say they're putting a good 40 or 50 hours of time against the cows, maybe even longer," he said. "The level of detail is astounding."

The cows are either sponsored or auctioned off, the proceeds put toward the fight against cancer. They'll be on display in the Greater Boston area from June 24 through September 4.  To learn more about the other artists and how you can support The Jimmy Fund, click here.

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