Woody Jackson, Ben and Jerry's cow artist, to visit Maple Street School


MANCHESTER -- The artist famous for creating the cows featured in Ben & Jerry's iconic logo will be spending two days in residence at the Maple Street School.

Woody Jackson, a native of Middlebury, will spend Tuesday and Wednesday of this week at the school, meeting with students from every grade. The two-day residency will culminate with a school-wide Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Party Wednesday afternoon.

Jackson, who graduated from Middlebury College in 1970 and received his masters degree in fine arts from the Yale School of Art in 1980, is best known for his Holstein cow paintings, which were reportedly inspired by his neighbor's cattle. Jackson has published two children's books, "Counting Cows" and "The Cow's Alfalphabet."

Jackson began his path toward international recognition in the spring of 1983, when he received a call from Ben Cohen, of Ben & Jerry's fame, who had seen prints of Jackson's Holstein paintings. Cohen believed that Jackson's cows were perfect for their advertising, and commissioned him to do designs for a billboard and a T-shirt.

"Ben was like a hyper kinetic Santa Claus," said Jackson in a blurb on his website, woodyjacksonart.com, "who bore right into the matter at hand, although with a disarming laugh. The company had painted a rather cartoonish cow on their trucks, but they though my cows were what was needed. They also thought it was a good fit between two Vermont enterprises, and they like to support Vermont artists. Ben was working with Chico Lager at the time and they were quite gererous with the royalty on the tee shirts, and paid, I think, $500 for the billboard design."

"One year later," he said, "They began to use my images on other parts of their shops and business and we made I licensing agreement so that my cows could be made part of Ben & Jerry's all over the country. The cows gave Ben & Jerry's an instantly powerful trademark which has helped the ice cream guys to become world-renowned. It hasn't hurt me either. I still love to see the big semis rolling down Interstate 89 covered with Woody cows. It is a real thrill."

On Tuesday, Jackson will meet with students in kindergarten and grades one, two, four, and eight. That night, he will stay in the guest cottage of Manchester residents Larry and Andrea Ross, before meeting with students in grades three, five, six, and seven on Wednesday, according to Development Officer Kate Bryan.

"All my artwork has been inspired by the land, from apple orchards, vegetable gardens, New Mexico deserts, dairy farms, and even the New York City waterfront," writes Jackson, "The land in turn is changed and inspired by time and the seasons. The light is different through the day and month to month. As I write this, it's the first day of summer, and nature is luxuriant with greens and slashes of color of flowers blooming. But it's not just the visual, but the sounds and smells of the seasons that propel us forward or back into revery. The lilacs, the peonies, and now the roses fill the air, the birds wake us and the wind rushes through the leaves. It's a multimedia symphony of sensations. I love every month and its music. My [artwork] celebrates both from the perspective of the dairy cows of Vermont. They provide us with beautiful landscapes of our farms and the architecture of our barns, not to mention the rich cream, milk, and cheese.

The farmers are at the mercy of the weather and the seasons that nature gives us. I hope that nature is bountiful for us all in the coming year, and that your days are full and cherished. May the cows be with you."

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB


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