Animals Go on the Block for Charity

In cities nationwide, nonprofits are finding out they can raise big money through online auctions of fiberglass animals created for outdoor public art projects in downtown areas.

The latest example is in Buffalo, NY. When Herd About Buffalo — a citywide display of life-size buffalo decorated by artists — ended, an online auction of 97 of the sculptures earned $428,538 for Roswell Park Cancer Institute and the Burchfield-Penney Art Center.

The animal festivals began in Zurich in 1998 and debuted in the United States in Chicago in 1999.

During Buffalo’s auction at the end of October, bids came from as far away as Kansas and Georgia, and as the supply dwindled, prices soared. One spectacular buffalo, “Smoked Buffalo,” which sports three working smokestacks that make reference to Buffalo’s industrial heritage, sold online for more than $4,000.

“It did quite well,” said Wendy Huntington, head of development at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center. But it was Brass Stampede, sponsored by Outokumpu American Brass, that topped the list at $13,750.

Organizers at Burchfield-Penney chose where to sell the 154 buffalo, selecting 97 for the online sale, two for a raffle and the remainder for the live auction.

“We decided which buffalo should go to the live auction and which should be auctioned online pretty much by picking names out of a hat,” Huntington said.

Herd About Buffalo began in May and ended in early October. Altogether the project earned $1.5 million.

In Cincinnati, where pigs hogged the streets from June 10 through Oct. 23, Big Pig Gig organizer Artworks, a nonprofit that provides job training to youth through the arts, plans to auction 170 of the 425 fiberglass porkers online at eBay from Nov. 8-11. Only 66 will go to the live auction at Cincinnati’s Music Hall on Nov. 13. The remaining 189 will stay with their sponsors. Fifty percent of the proceeds will go to Artworks and 50 percent to 140 charities.

Big Pig Gig organizers chose to honor the pig as a tribute to the days when pigs were herded through the streets of Cincinnati and the city was jokingly called Porkopolis. Pigs that have mostly a local interest, such as the Eden Park pig, named after a local park, or Dual Porcineality, which pokes fun at the rivalry between the east and west sides of the city, will be sold at the live auction. Pigs that have a national audience, such as Elvis Pigsley and Porkeman, will be sold online.

Both the online and live auctions are being advertised by public service announcements, classified advertising in national publications, Internet marketing on national Web sites and direct mail, said Betsy Neyer, public relations manager at Big Pig Gig.

“The biggest challenge is finding the buyers. Who has the money or space to buy a pig? … We don’t know,” Neyer said. “Our methods aren’t very scientific. More the spaghetti style — throw it all against the wall and see what sticks.”

Most of the 500 cows in CowParade New York 2000 were sold at public auction, but 175 were auctioned at Bidding went as high as $17,200 for Big Apple Cow and $12,300 for Broadway Baby. CowParade donated a portion of the $1,351,000 in sales to the American Cancer Society and the Muscular Dystrophy Association, while proceeds from the sale of many individual cows were donated to designated charities.

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