Parks Trust rejects concrete cows community art plan

The skeletal cows could cost up to �2,000 to repair
The skeletal cows could cost up to �2,000 to repair
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SUGGESTIONS that the Bancroft-based concrete cows should be used as a community art space have been dismissed by the Parks Trust.

The bovines, which are replicas of the original sculptures created by artist Liz Leyh in 1978, were painted as skeletons last Tuesday night.

Concrete cows been painted as Skeletons

Concrete cows been painted as Skeletons

The Parks Trust indicated it could cost as much as £2,000 to restore them to their original state, prompting MP Mark Lancaster to suggest they could be used by people ‘to paint in a controlled manner’.

The idea from the member for Milton Keynes North mirrors a number of suggestions made by Citizen readers on our Facebook site.

But the Trust told this newspaper that such a project would tarnish the original work of Canadian-born artist Ms Leyh.

Mr Lancaster said: “‘Actually I like what has been done to the concrete cows.

Peartree Bridge Dinosaur being repainted

Peartree Bridge Dinosaur being repainted

“I think that instead of painting over them, given they have been painted over several times before, we should look at the potential of using them as a community art space for people to paint and decorate in a controlled manner.

“It would also have the benefit that money would not need to be used to re-paint them.”

And his sentiments were echoed by readers commenting on the MK Citizen Facebook page.

Many were impressed with how the new paint job came just in time for Halloween and suggested similar work could take place before other major events like Christmas.

Deborah Lewis wrote: “Great idea, they should be re-painted for Xmas, Easter, summer. Not only does it keep them fresh and original, it makes people actually want to go and see them.

“Finally, art for the everyday person instead of the mind-numbing pompus rubbish in galleries”.

Zita Middleton said: “Why not make use of them and hold competitions to decorate them for things during the year – Xmas, Easter, Halloween. Then groups of kids could enter and feel as they have done something good for MK,’ while Pat Gates added: ‘I think they should be turned into zebras for NET Cancer day on November 10 (NET = neuroendocrine tumour)”.

And Sam Allen said the new designs had given the cows a much needed boost: “I was there on Sunday with my daughter and they were looking quite tired and dilapidated.

“A lot of the paintwork was chipping and flaking off and they didn’t look great. I think if someone can spend the time and effort to make them look that good, then good on them.”

The cows at Bancroft are copies – sculpted by Milton Keynes artist Bill Billings – of the original cows, which are now based at Midsummer Place.

The originals were moved to safer pastures to avoid them being damaged.

Over the years the Bancroft bovines have been victims to vandals on a number of occasions, including being painted pink, dressed in pyjamas and even beheaded.

And they are not the only city art forms to have been subject to an unofficial paint job.

The Peartree Bridge dinosaur, pictured, created by Mr Billings back in 1979, was also given a skeletal look earlier this year.

That piece of artwork is currently the subject of a new paint job, courtesy of Peartree Bridge based community arts group Interaction MK. School children are working with designers to give the dinosaur the new look.

It was first repainted in 2009 as a planned community art project to mark its 30th year anniversary.

But despite the fact the dinsosaur is Mr Billing’s original work and the Bancroft cows are only copies, The Parks Trust says it would be wrong to re-paint them.

A spokesman said: “The cows at Bancroft are replica cows. The ‘originals’ currently reside at Midsummer Place.

“The replicas were created as over the years the cows have been re-painted, sustained physical damage and been graffitied and the replica herd are stronger and can stand up better to the rigours of being a piece of outdoor public art.

“By having a herd of cows in two places it also means that more people can enjoy them.”

She added: “I suppose the crux of the matter for us is that the cows are a piece of public art – and should be enjoyed and appreciated as such.

“We actively encourage people into the parks to visit all our artworks – but request that they respect them so that everyone can enjoy them. The concrete cows were created for Milton Keynes Development Corporation by artist Liz Leyh and as their custodians it is our responsibility to restore them to her original vision.

“The Peartree Bridge Dinosaur is a community art project which we undertake in partnership with Inter-Action MK and Woughton Community Council by asking people to release their creativity and put forward their designs for the dinosaur’s new makeover. The winning design is currently being applied to the dinosaur. It was last painted in 2009.”

The estimate of £2,000 for the cows’ repair bill covers everything from stripping the paint from the cows, doing any minor repairs, the purchase of the paint, applying the paint, applying any protective coating, supervising the contractors and any administration work.

It is not public money as the Parks Trust is a self-financing charity.