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Hillsboro's newest public art project is 'shear' fun

It only takes two shakes of a lamb's tail to be a part of it


HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: KATHY FULLER - A conference of sheep stand in the Walter Cultural Arts Center waiting for the barn to be built on the lawn outside the arts center. The sheep are now in their barn and ready for citizens to borrow them for a day of fun and photos.It was an old-fashioned barn-raising last week on the lawn outside the Walters Cultural Arts Center.

Well, sort of.

Artist Jed Berk and a few helpers took on the wind and a few downpours, deciphering a thick packet of plans for assembling a greenhouse that eventually became a barn for a flock of whimsical little sheep. Made of foam core.

Fifty of them, to be exact — and a larger-than-life mama sheep to keep watch over the flock.

It’s all part of a new public art project that kicked off last weekend, “Champion Flock of Weed Eaters.”

The project invites the public to become “urban shepherds,” so to speak, and take the sheep out into the wide, wide world of Hillsboro to explore, photograph and hopefully have a little fun along the way.

Over the course of two months, the sheep can be checked out of their barn — just like a library book — for 24 hours. People are encouraged to take photos with the sheep wherever they go — parks, school businesses — and post them on Instagram with the hashtag #SheepOnTheGo.

Hillsboro Public Art Program supervisor Valerie Otani hopes folks will populate Instagram with innovate, creative, silly, serious and just plain fun photos for all to enjoy.

“The album of images will become a community scrapbook, showcasing highlights of Hillsboro and giving a glimpse of the creative minds of local residents,” Otani said.

“Hillsboro is the perfect community for this,” she added, while holding the still-wobbly walls of the greenhouse under construction.

Several years ago Otani and her colleagues began discussing ideas for an interactive art project that could include any and all residents of the city, young and old. That’s when she found Berk’s “flock.” The project won a national award from Americans for the Arts in 2011.HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: KATHY FULLER - A few foam-core fellows were slightly damaged in shipment. These sheep await repair and reinforcement before heading out into the community.

Berk, a Los Angeles-based artist, originally created the project five years ago for San Jose, Calif. There, the barn was a little different and the whole set-up was slightly more complicated. Reflecting on that project, Berk said, “Instagram didn’t even exist.” Phone cameras weren’t nearly as common. So along with the sheep, they loaned out cameras.

Berk hopes Hillsboro residents will tuck a sheep under their arm and venture out to explore the city, and share that experience with one another.

Using sheep, he said, references “the relationship between shepherd, sheep and land. The artwork reclaims our collective human responsibility for the environments we create and inhabit.”

Otani said there’s already been lots of interest and excitement surrounding the project.

“People began contacting us immediately” when word got out about the project.

“The people of Hillsboro are so open and enthusiastic,” she said.

The project is part of Hillsboro Arts Month, a full month of “performances, exhibitions, open studios and events that will be packed into a rich month of arts and culture,” she said. (See special insert in this week’s paper).

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: KATHY FULLER - Artist Jed Berk build the sheep barn that houses 50 portable foam core sheep and a four-foot mama sheep for the public art project, Champion Flock of Weed Eaters.

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: KATHY FULLER - Artist Jed Berk (in pink cap) and a few assistants build the sheep barn that houses 50 portable foam core sheep and a four-foot mama sheep for the public art project, Champion Flock of Weed Eaters.