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‘Been There, Be There’: The creation of the World Dairy Expo 50th Anniversary painting

Kathleen O’Keefe for Progressive Dairyman Published on 30 September 2016
Larry Schultz with his painting

Larry Schultz has painted hundreds, if not thousands, of cows in his career as an artist specializing in agricultural scenes, so asking him to comment on one of his subjects might not always yield an impassioned response.

But painting the famous white Holstein cow that is the centerpiece of a recent work was one of the biggest thrills of his career according to Schultz, a Wisconsin native now residing in Milton, Wisconsin.

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He was commissioned to produce the World Dairy Expo 50th Anniversary commemorative painting, which features four-time WDE supreme champion Brookview Tony Charity.

Plans for the 2016 World Dairy Expo, which marks the 50th anniversary of the event, began in the spring of 2012, according to Scott Bentley, general manager of World Dairy Expo, and early brainstorming sessions yielded many proposals for discussion.

“The idea of a special commissioned painting generated a great deal of excitement from the staff and board, so this project has been in place for more than four years,” Bentley says.

Once the painting had the official go-ahead, Schultz was contacted by former staffers Mark Clarke and Janet Keller to see if he was interested in producing the work.

“Larry was a natural fit, as he has been a collaborator in previous expo artistic endeavors and resides down the road from the expo office,” Bentley says. “He has also been a long-time expo commercial exhibitor and has created several paintings for Wisconsin dairy organizations.”

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The artist couldn’t agree to do the project fast enough. “I was totally blown away that I got to do it,” Schultz says. “I went to the very first expo when I was in high school, and I never dreamed that all these years later, I would be able to contribute to the 50th anniversary celebration.”

Titled “Been There, Be There,” the colorful work highlights a sunny autumn day in Madison, Wisconsin. It features several elements of the trade and cattle shows as well as the overall feeling of camaraderie that makes WDE such a special event to attend. The WDE staff and Schultz collaborated to decide on the images contained in the painting.

“We wanted to achieve a real-life scenario and did not want to create just a collage of separate expo images crammed together in one painting,” Bentley explains. “We held several face-to-face meetings to agree on the iconic images, cows, individuals and structures that we wanted to include.”

The artist agrees and elaborates, “Basically, we were on the same page. We wanted people to see all of the aspects of World Dairy Expo. The idea of using Charity as our central figure came to the top quickly. Her unique status as the only four-time supreme champion made her a logical choice to represent the amazing show cows that travel to and compete at Madison every year.”

The staff and committee approved an initial sketch, and then Schultz started painting. The painting itself took about four to five months, as he would complete sections and bring the work in progress back to the group for their assessment and approval. In the end, “everyone agreed we had a winner,” Bentley says.

The painting was unveiled at the World Dairy Expo volunteer picnic held in early June and was an immediate success, according to Bentley.

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“People love the painting, as it captures the iconic images that are vital emotional elements of their own expo experience,” he says.

Schultz was on hand that day to share the story of the project and also to autograph prints for enthusiastic purchasers.

Sales of the painting began that day at the picnic, and WDE also began offering prints for sale online (World Dairy Expo). The prints are available in four sizes, and a conscious effort was made to keep pricing reasonable so the work is accessible to people with varying budgets.

During World Dairy Expo, prints will be for sale exclusively at Larry Schultz’s booth in the Exhibition Hall. Bentley gently encourages some WDE shopping: “They’ll make great Christmas gifts for expo lovers of all ages.”

The original painting now hangs proudly in the front lobby of the World Dairy Expo office. For the artist, who has loved the dairy industry since he was a kid, it’s a hallmark of his career.

“I’m proud to be a Wisconsinite and have always loved World Dairy Expo,” he says. “I’ve always been pro-dairy and hope this work can help in promoting our dairy industry around the world.”  end mark

PHOTO: The painting “Been There, Be There” was unveiled at the World Dairy Expo volunteer picnic held in early June and was an immediate success. Artist Larry Schultz was on hand that day to share the story of the project and also to autograph prints for enthusiastic purchasers. Photo courtesy of World Dairy Expo.

You can view more of Larry Schultz’s artwork on his website (Sunny Beach Farm Studio).

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