THE custodians of the concrete cows have told the Citizen they did try to contact the artist who gave them their skeletal look.
On Wednesday, this newspaper reported that the son of community artist Bill Billings – who wants to be known only by the moniker ‘piewaste’ – had admitted he had repainted the Bancroft bovines ‘to save art in Milton Keynes’.
In a post on our Facebook page, he said he had worked unofficially on city art including the Peartree Bridge dinosaur, the Beanhill toadstools and the Wolverton train mural after approaches to Milton Keynes Council and the Parks Trust were ignored.
He said: “Last year, I restored the Wolverton train mural with people from the community. Since then, I have tried to get work restoring my dad’s other works, I was not successful. So I painted the cows like skeletons.
“Not because of Halloween, but because of the dying public art... I have helped my dad do community art since I was a kid and I do it to this day... Ironic, now that the cows are skeletons they look more alive than ever.”
But Briony Serginson, who is head of community engagement at The Parks Trust, said ‘piewaste’ had been offered the chance to get involved in the re-design of the Peartree Bridge dinosaur, adding that the Trust would be glad to have him onboard for future projects.
She said: “We’re very pleased that Piewaste feels so passionately about public art in Milton Keynes, as custodians of numerous artworks we do too.
“We applaud his honesty in admitting that he was responsible for the repainting of the concrete cows but we’d like to correct some of the comments he made on Facebook as they are simply not true.
“The Parks Trust first contacted him in February to tell him about the community competition with Interaction MK to redesign the Peartree Bridge dinosaur, and offered him the opportunity to get involved.
“We would have been happy for him to repaint the dinosaur in accordance with the winning design – which came from a child in the local community – but, unfortunately, he didn’t respond to us.
“As we didn’t hear from him we engaged our contractors to do the work. The repainting has proved difficult partly due to the wet weather with heavy rain washing the paint off as it was being done. The paint Piewaste had used didn’t allow the new paint to adhere properly, causing our contractors problems in trying to restore the dinosaur to a decent finish.
“Piewaste did contact us in early October to ask if he could repaint the concrete cows and we told him that we would get in touch when we were ready to do this again. It’s unfair for him to say that he was unsuccessful in getting permission from us to repaint the cows as he only allowed a few days to elapse before taking matters into his own hands.
“We would have appreciated being given a fair opportunity to discuss the management of the artworks with him.
“The cows were due for maintenance in the spring and we would have been happy to have looked at involving the community in that work if he had given us the chance to discuss it with him.
“We’ve invited him again to a meeting to talk about how we might work together on the maintenance of our public art in a managed way.
“We’re also trying to arrange a meeting with Liz Leyh (the artist responsible for the original concrete cows) to talk though ideas of how the concrete cows could be looked after in the future.”
The original cows are currently stationed in Midsummer Place, while the cows at Bancroft are copies created by Bill Billings.