By Lisa Coryell/For The Times The Times, Trenton
on November 04, 2013

HOPEWELL TOWNSHIP — Area artists eager to transform life-size fiberglass oxen into masterpieces for the Hopewell Valley Stampede art-awareness project this week learned the ground rules for their participation: let your creativity run wild but make sure your finished project is durable, safe and non-confrontational.

“This isn’t the time for religious, political or sexual representations,” artist Carol Lipson reminded the artists who attended an informational meeting about the project this week. “Remember this is a public arts display.”

The call to artists comes two weeks after the arrival of “Ollie,” the first of dozens of fiberglass oxen that will be decorated and auctioned in a fundraiser to benefit the newly formed Hopewell Valley Arts Council. With the prototype beast of burden ready for viewing, some 50 artists attended a meeting at Hopewell Valley Vineyards to hear what’s involved.

“This is where the rubber meets the road,” Arts Council co-chair Betsy Ackerman told the group. “You guys are the ones who are going to make this happen.”

Lipson, who is overseeing the artist’s involvement, laid out the deadlines and rules for the participants. Their designs outlines must be in by January and the submissions will be shopped around to the corporate, community and individual sponsors who have agreed to donate up to $25,000 to sponsor the decoration of an ox.

Based on sponsor selection, artists and donors will be “yoked” together in February and the artist will have until the summer to transform their 8-foot long, gleaming white ox into a work of art.

The decorated oxen will “roam” through fields, schools and business centers over the summer before they’re auctioned in Jan. 2015.

“This isn’t the time for cheap paints,” Lipson warned the artists. “The oxen are going to be out in the elements. They’re going to be out in the sun.”

The arts council hopes to auction 60 oxen. The proceeds of the sales will fund future projects and events to increase awareness and appreciation of the arts in Hopewell Valley, including the visual, culinary, literary and performing arts. The group is also looking to help fund a permanent center for artistic pursuits.

Artist Julie Rosenthal, who owns Art Sparks studio for kids in Hopewell Borough, said she plans to submit a design for a project that includes her students.

“How thrilling for them to know that something they created is being displayed in a public space and to know that they’re part of bringing art to public’s attention,” Rosenthal said.

Ted Berglund, whose art has appeared in many area venues, eyed the hulking ox and said he’ll most likely abandon his signature design of cutting into the canvasses he paints.

“I don’t know if I want to cut one of those things,” he said. “I may just go with spray paint.”
Local artist Bob Barish said he was pleased to see that the stampede organizers are so enthusiastic about the project.

“They’ve put so much thought into this,” he said. “And I like that they’re looking to develop a facility related to art. Having an art space in Hopewell Valley would be wonderful.”

Artist Ron Balerno designed the logo that appears on T-shirts and literature for the stampede. He says he already has several ideas for but hasn’t decided which he’ll submit.

“This project will be a big time commitment but it will be really worthwhile. The value the arts council will bring to Hopewell Valley cannot be over-estimated,” he said. “The groundswell of support for this project is already significant. If the interest continues and the artists get behind it, it will be a really great show.”