Pittsburg artist Rod Dutton examines the coal bucket facsimiles that will be turned into public art on Broadway in the Southeast Kansas town.

Painted cows have grazed in Chicago, Kansas City and dozens of other cities. Painted horses have galloped in Louisville, Ky., and manatees have frolicked in Jacksonville, Fla.

Public art installations inspired by the original "Cow Parades" 15 years ago haven't been exclusive to animals, of course. London had eggs; Cleveland and Austin had guitars; San Francisco had hearts; and Providence, R.I., had Mr. Potato Head.

Now, this small city in Southeast Kansas adds its own twist - coal buckets.

Celebrating an industry that fueled the growth of Southeast Kansas, this city distributed 26 fiberglass coal bucket facsimilies to artists who will transform them over the next four weeks. Once painted and coated, the buckets will be displayed along a six-block stretch of Broadway. Two will travel to visible locations in the region, directing people to visit Pittsburg.

The 65-pound, 3-foot buckets were passed out to artists this week from the city's Parks & Recreation building.

“I am super excited to begin,” said Kelsci Cooper, a sign artist who is designing a bucket. “I remember seeing the Cow Parade in Kansas City when I was a kid. … This is what we need here — getting the arts more prominent. We have all the tools and people to make it happen.”

Steve Robb conceived the idea to mimic the Cow Parade and similar art installations. He expects the finished buckets to be unveiled around the second week of June. Designs are secret until then, though some artists picking up their buckets this week talked about their inspiration.

David Hightower, a panel artist known for pin-striping hot rods, said' he'll draw upon his automotive expertise.

And Rod Dutton doesn't plan to stray far from his portfolio of impressionistic landscapes. “I never try to be like a photograph with my work, and neither will I be with my bucket," he said.

Pittsburg grew from a mining camp in the 1870s, as coal mines began to proliferate throughout Southeast Kanas. The coal industry remained an economic force here through the 1980s.


Details for this story were reported by the Joplin, Mo., Globe.

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