November 2015 - Wild Horses of San Juan Capistrano: Really?

Public art project is designed to draw attention to wild and domesticated horses in America.

San Juan Capistrano is a horsey city. It’s full of domesticated horses and highly trained equine athletes. But wild horses, not so much.

At least until last month, when the Wild Horses of San Juan Capistrano campaign arrived in the Orange County city, as the first roll-out of what’s set to be a national campaign called Horse of a Different Color™.

Katharine Ross with the sculpture before she began to paint.

The public art project uses near life-size horse sculptures, painted by celebrities and artists and placed at public locations to elicit interest, awareness and funds for horses in general and specifically, America’s wild horses.

Return To Freedom, the well-known wild horse sanctuary in Santa Barbara County’s Lompoc, will receive the funds generated through the Wild Horses of San Juan Capistrano and Horse of a Different Color campaign.

But it’s not just about funds. It’s about raising awareness of the horse’s place in America’s history and through to the present, and of the dire situation faced by what’s left of our country’s wild horse population.

The San Juan Capistrano campaign was set to kick off last month, with a first painted Mustang placed in front of the Camino Real Playhouse. The artist in this case is Chor Boogie, an urban street artist whose medium is bright colored spray paint.

Actors Katherine Ross and William Devane are on board to paint more of what are expected to be 10 horses installed throughout San Juan Capistrano for approximately three months. One horse, Patriot, has already been painted in red, white and blue patriotic motif and another is expected to incorporate Zorro, the

“Patriot” was done by local artists in Dana Point.

“Californio” character introduced in the 1919 story, The Curse of Capistrano. Plaques on each horse will provide information and refer visitors to websites where they can learn more and get involved in the cause.

Similarly structured public art campaigns have been successful in raising funds and awareness of other good causes, explains Dana Yarger, an art agent who is producing the project with Benton Associates. He describes success with a similarly designed campaign, involving elephants, in the city of Dana Point in 2013.

Artist and celebrity painted, baby-sized elephant sculptures made an impressive impact, he reports. The City estimated the sculptures drew 250,000 visits and generated over 200-million media impressions, while raising over $250,000 for elephant welfare.

Hopes are high that the Horse of a Different Color campaign will be similarly successful. -by Kim F. Miller.

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