A Horse of Course

The Wild Art Horses of Red Bluff…

Downtown Red Bluff is a riot of color and public art these days thanks to the energy and determination of a small group of creatives. Murals can be found on almost every corner, and a small herd of painted fiberglass art horses is taking up residence, causing a stampede of interest.

“People like the murals, but they really love the horses,” says Heather Vine, a founder of Tehama Creatives. Inspired by the Cow Parade of Chicago, Vine and others chose art horses to honor the beloved and bygone tradition of running horses down Main Street during Red Bluff Round-Up festivities. “This is one more way to reinforce our history,” she says. “We always try to connect our public art with our community, whether it be our history or our agriculture.”

Photos by Heather Griffin-Vine

The Wild Art Horses, which are sponsored by local businesses and individuals and painted by local artists, are finding homes around town, to the delight of the community and visitors alike. There are currently six on display, with plans to create 21.

The project got its start in a truly wild west way when the first one installed, a patriotic horse painted by Tehama Creatives co-director Phillip Moller, was promptly stolen. Installed in the Cone Kimball Plaza, the abduction captured the ire and attention of residents. “The whole community came together,” says Moller. “We knew they liked the art horses, but we didn’t know how much they valued public art until it was gone.”

An anonymous call to the Copy Center led to the horse’s recovery in a creek bed in town. It was promptly restored and returned after a stint at the Red Bluff High School welding department, where students created a secure and theft-proof base to keep it in place. All subsequent horses pass through the welding department before being anchored in their forever homes.

Photos by Heather Griffin-Vine

“You would have thought the crown jewels of Red Bluff were stolen,” adds Vine. “People were mad. It really showed us the need and how important the art is.”

A first glimpse at the thirst for public art was seen at an early fundraiser for the project, a bingo fundraiser at Enjoy Local. “We thought we would walk out with $2,000 and we came away with $32,000,” says Vine. The horses had captured the imagination of community members, who voted with their dollars to have more than the original seven horses envisioned for the town. “It was an overwhelming response,” she adds.

Photos by Heather Griffin-Vine

The team has had fun coming up with themes for the horses and the best places to locate them in town. Vine has a Day of the Dead-themed horse that sits below a similarly themed mural by Carl Avery at Los Mariachis Restaurant. A cutting horse painted by Toni Gaylord greets visitors to Red Bluff City Council quarters, while guests at Enjoy Local enjoy a welcome from a fanciful horse created by co-owner Brandon Grissom.

“Here’s what I love about Brandon’s horse,” says Vine. “If you were to ask him last year if he were an artist, he would tell you no. But every time I saw him, he was just over the moon to be working on this. The fact that someone who doesn’t create art for a living created this showstopper is just amazing.”

Photos by Heather Griffin-Vine

Indeed, a great joy in the project is the opportunity for more people to get involved, from the Red Bluff High School welding students to the members of the Tehama County Probation Department’s AB109 woodworking crew who are developing Pegasus wings for the horse that will live at the State Theatre for the Arts. Art teacher Lacy Wilson gets to see her wild art horse bring joy to customers at SIP Coffee Bar, right across the street from her studio. Visitors to the Red Bluff Round-Up Museum can learn about Tehama County cattle brands on the heavily branded wild art horse there.

Photos by Heather Griffin-Vine

“We have been creating lots of change through art,” says Vine. “Every tiny piece of art creates this larger vision.” It’s a vision of inclusion, celebration, beauty and much more, as creatives begin to see Red Bluff as a vibrant place to live and work and find support in the community. “These horses have been a really shiny object, if you will.”

One of the biggest questions these days, whether from tourists coming in off Interstate 5 while passing through, or locals trying to keep up with each new piece of art, is where to find it all. That question is being answered by a new website,, which aims to direct visitors to art, arts events and creatives alike as a one-stop site to the Red Bluff art scene.

For people like Vine, the website is just another opportunity to continue the conversation about art and community. “You have to be around it to see it and feel it and appreciate it,” she says. •

Tehama Creatives and
Red Bluff Arts District

About Melissa Mendonca

Melissa is a graduate of San Francisco State and Tulane universities. She’s a lover of airports and road trips and believes in mentoring and service to create communities everyone can enjoy. Her favorite words are rebar, wanderlust and change.

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