When it popped up not long ago in downtown Tillamook, the first of a set of three cow sculptures raised a few eyebrows.

Now its two sisters, recently installed in Rockaway Beach and in Hebo, are provoking a similar reaction in their communities.

The cows are the brainchild of members of the 2008 Ford Institute Leadership Program. The institute encourages local leaders to learn leadership and team-building skills. It charges the graduates with using what they have learned to implement a community project.

The Ford Institute gives the team a matching grant of up to $5,000 to execute a project.

To meet its $5,000 obligation, the local group hosted two rummage sales, received funding from the City of Tillamook Transient Room Tax, a grant from US Bank, and in-kind donations from the Port of Tillamook Bay, Rosenberg’s Builders’ Supply, Nehalem Bay Ready Mix, Coastwide Ready Mix, the Bay City Arts Center and others, said class member Jennifer Purcell.

The group decided to create the so-called “personality cows” to represent cultural aspects of Tillamook County and its three geographic regions.

The 2008 group focused on a project that would incorporate county-wide unity, youth involvement and economic development.

 The first sculpture to be completed, the Tillamook cow doubles as a bench. It sits in front of the Tillamook County Transportation District’s bus station at Second and Laurel, and portrays the Tillamook Air Museum blimp hangar and the Tillamook County Fair’s Pig ‘N’ Ford races.

Students from Jenny Wyss’s art class at Tillamook High School created the scenes.

Soon, the Neah-Kah-Nie and Nestucca high school art classes will paint their newly installed cows, said Purcell.

She said it can be a difficult assignment to paint the cows to represent their respective regions of Tillamook County.

North Tillamook County citizens have found it “challenging to link a cow to Neah-Kah-Nie High School,” said Purcell.

When it approved placing a cow sculpture at the entrance to the high school, the Neah-Kah-Nie School Board was “excited to represent the dairy industry in north county,” she said.

Purcell said art teacher Steve Albrechtsen will help his students “bring ‘pirate’ personality to the cow through the artistic design.”

One side of the cow will illustrate Tillamook Bay and a pirate ship. The opposite side will have a hill, forest, fish and natural resources montage, she said.


Hebo’s personality cow will feature a whimsical collection of all things south county, said Purcell. The cow is located at the Cedar Creek Child Care Center and stands reading a book to promote learning.

“I just think they’re outstanding. They’re really playful,” said Ford Institute Leadership member Kim Cavatorta of Hebo. Her husband, Mark, is the art teacher at Nestucca High School and will have his students begin painting the cow soon.

Clair Thomas, a Ford Leadership graduate and teacher at Tillamook High School, first presented the idea for the personality cow project.

Thomas, fellow teacher Max Sherman and several students had been experimenting with using compost from the Port of Tillamook Bay Hooley Digester to create Hypertufa as an agriscience project. The students were studying ways the compost could be used as a value-added product.

Hypertufa is a man-made imitation of the lightweight tufa rock. One ingredient is compost.

It is porous, favorable for planters, can withstand harsh winters and was developed for alpine climates, said artist Christine Harrison of Tillamook.

The Ford Institute committee members commissioned Harrison and Heidi Clemens of Netarts to create the personality cows.

Sherman’s class worked with Harrison and Clemens to weld frames for the figures. The artists covered the frames with steel lathe to give the Hypertufa an extra bonding surface.

Then, the artists covered each cow’s frame with several inches of Hypertufa. They finished the statues with a smooth, white overcoat, ready to paint.


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