“Meet me at the Space Cow.”
Those directions have been given hundreds if not thousands of times over the years.
The Space Cow is the more commonly used term of endearment for the “Moonwalking Cow”— a towering sculpture that’s a part of Houston Airports’ public arts collection in the IAH Terminal A ticketing lobby. The art piece was donated to Houston Airports by Marc Ostrofsky in 2001. The rebranded Space Cow has long been a fan favorite, according to Houston Airports Public Art Program Director and Curator Alton DuLaney.
“It is a true landmark at the airport,” DuLaney said. “Passengers and airport employees have referenced it as a meeting place. It is also very popular with people taking selfies as well as those who include it on their Instagram accounts.”
DuLaney said the popularity of the piece led to it being in a state of disrepair about a year ago, with the 8-foot-tall cow often being played with and climbed upon.
“It wasn’t meant to be a permanent piece, but an attention grabber for a 2001 Texas Children’s Hospital fundraiser,” DuLaney said. “All the attention has taken a toll on the beloved bovine.”
The fundraiser was a worldwide undertaking where artists painted cows which were then auctioned off and the proceeds went to local charities. Locations around the world were involved, including as far away as Rio De Janeiro. The funds for Space Cow were earmarked for Texas Children’s Hospital.
The Space Cow holds a Texas flag and stands on a base that reads “Houston We Have Landed.” The sculpture represents the merging of art with aeronautics and depicts Houston’s spirit of mingling creativity with opportunity. It was created by gift and novelty company Silvestri.
DuLaney said he debated on whether the cow should be “put out to pasture” or restored but, upon observing its popularity one Saturday, he knew that restoring the piece was the right thing.
It is currently in a warehouse in West Houston being restored to its former glory with an anticipated return to Terminal A in late summer.
DuLaney said that when the team was dismantling the piece, he was approached by passengers, airport staff and TSA with inquiries such as “You’re not getting rid of the cow, are you?” and “Will she be coming back?”
DuLaney assured one and all that she would be back.
“We are going to build a plexiglass barrier around her, though,” he said. “However, people will still be able to take photos with her. She’s made of foam, and foam naturally breaks down over time. If it were to suffer major damage, restoration might not be possible.”
DuLaney said that she will have that clear shield around her and accompanying signage will let people know that they are welcome to take pictures.
“We are looking forward to getting her ‘mooved’ back into the airport,” DuLaney said with a wink. “Until then, you can follow her adventures on Instagram @BushAirport, Facebook at BushAirport, or Twitter @IAH.”