Cow cutouts promote mental health awareness

graphic by Caroline Tan

In the coming winter months, intricately decorated wooden cows will begin to pop up in the windows of restaurants, shops, and community centers around Princeton. The question remains: why cows?

From January 12 to February 11, McCarter Theatre’s latest production Stones in His Pockets will be playing at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre. In preparation for the play’s debut at the theatre, McCarter and the Arts Council of Princeton have collaborated to create Cows in Our Town, a community project for the arts.

As part of the project, 20 local artists and art groups have been selected to decorate a wooden cutout of a cow with their own artistic styles. The cutouts will then be displayed in the windows of local businesses and Princeton community centers. The production at McCarter contains themes of mental health, so the symbol of the cow, which also plays a role in the production, was chosen to raise awareness both for the play and mental illness. Mental illness is an issue not only in this play, but also in our community at PHS and around the world.

“For anyone who is facing something like that, both organizations have [opened their] doors to working with any individual,” said Arts Council Program Coordinator Melissa Kuscin. “Art is an outlet to express yourself in so many different ways.”

According to Kuscin, the Arts Council purposefully chose the businesses and artists involved in the project. It looked for individuals and groups who could represent the unity and diversity of the Princeton community.

“[The businesses are] diverse, and we looked to find the same things when it came to the artists. The artists work in all kinds of disciplines, it’s all mixed media,” Kuscin said.

Artists will decorate their cows through a number of different mediums. Along with paint, the artists plan on working with felt, embroidery, and other unconventional materials. For instance, local artist Andre Veloux — whose works created with Legos have recently appeared at the Princeton Public Library — will be using his chosen medium to decorate a cow with Legos.

“[The organizers] said that the artist could do anything with the cow, and so obviously you’re going to do something that’s in line with your vision, your mission, and your own art,” Veloux said.

Local businesses and organizations will also be involved in the public art project and are an essential part of the Cows in Our Town’s impact. In choosing to create the cow cutouts, the organizers hope to not only promote the the Arts Council and McCarter’s production, but also to enrich the Princeton community. According to Kuscin, one goal of the project is to use art to bring the community together.

“We looked to the cow cutouts as something that could easily be either propped on a counter in a local business or hung on a wall, put in a window… it ties together the arts and the local economy,” Kuscin said.

The cow cutouts are easily accessible public art, and therefore increase the program’s potential outreach. The wooden cows will also be for sale to the general public, and 50 percent of  the money raised by the sales will benefit a mental health nonprofit, the Urban Mental Health Alliance. UMHA’s goal is to improve the overall mental health of individuals and communities.

As Kuscin pointed out, however, money is not the only way that the Cows in Our Town collaboration will help the organization — the labels next to the cows will help too.

“It gets people talking initially and urges them to check out the mental health situation,” said Kuscin.

Each label will contain information on the collaboration between McCarter and ACP, the artist who decorated the cow, and the UMHA. “It’s helping people that could be in a really dire situation,” Kuscin said.

This program is not just a collaboration between McCarter and the ACP; it is also a collaboration with the entire community. Collaborators on the project hope that the art will give exposure to UMHA as well as show the power of art to Princeton.

“When you’re dealing with organizations like McCarter and the Arts Council who are … working in the community, you want to find ways to work together on projects that can benefit not only what you have going on, but other entities that may not have the access to media exposure,” said Tom Miller, the public relations manager for McCarter.

The project is designed to involve members of the Princeton community by challenging them to find all of the cows around town. By posting a photo of a cow to social media with the  hashtag #CowsInOurTown, community members can be entered into a lottery for free tickets to the show at McCarter.

“Social media awareness is a big deal,” said Kuscin. “So that’s a goal for us as well.”

The project organizers hope that the social media platform will be another way to get the community involved and promote the Arts Council, McCarter, and UMHA. After all, as Kuscin said, that’s what the project is truly about: “Community, creativity within our own community, and partnership.”

Leave a Reply

Please use your real name and email. Your email address will not be published.

Any comments containing the following material will be removed:
  • Hostility or insulting language directed towards other users, authors, Tower staff, or a specific group of people
  • Any type of harassment
  • Profanity, crude language, or slurs
  • Personal information about yourself or anyone else
  • Discussion unrelated to the article