A 5-foot-tall buffalo will represent Johnson County on a statewide level, and now a local group is looking for someone to paint it.

The Indiana Association of United Ways and the Indiana Bicentennial Commission is participating in the Bison-tennial Public Art Project to celebrate Indiana’s 200th birthday.

Each of the state’s 92 counties, including Johnson County, is purchasing a fiberglass sculpture of a buffalo, which will be decorated to depict the communities and cultural history of the county. Buffaloes are symbolic of Indiana because they were historically native to the state, and a buffalo is depicted on the state seal.

Now, Johnson County’s buffalo needs to get a theme and be painted.

The United Way of Johnson County is seeking a volunteer artist or group of artists to create paintings for the buffalo sculpture that represent the county. Artists can be amateur or professional, art classes or non-profit arts organizations, but must have a connection to Johnson County or live in the county. Applications must be received by May 27.

“We’re open to any artist — whether they’d be professional, amateur, youth, college student, senior. I think we’re just looking for the best renditions of what represents Johnson County,” said Nancy Lohr Plake, executive director of United Way of Johnson County.

Once the bison is decorated, it will be displayed on Johnson County’s portion of the Torch Relay route, patterned after the Olympic Torch Relay where a torch will be handed from person to person throughout the state. The relay will pass through all 92 counties, covering 2,300 miles over a five-week period from Sept. 9 to Oct. 15, beginning in Corydon, the state’s first capital, and ending at the statehouse in Indianapolis.

The buffalo will find a permanent home in Johnson County after the relay.

Each artist will turn in a proposal with their application of what they plan to paint, which must somehow depict Johnson County, and a committee will pick the best one.

“It could be so many things, because you have a large retail industry, a rich history of agriculture in this community, as well as manufacturing. We have a rich history of community — we have several different communities in this county,” Plake said.

“It will be fun to see what the artist portrays Johnson County as.”

The Greenwood, Franklin and White River Rotary clubs provided $2,500 for the buffalo sculpture and will provide a $500 materials stipend for the artist to purchase paints or other materials.

Indiana's Bison-tennial

The United Way of Johnson County wants professional and amateur artists to submit an application to serve as the Bison-tennial artist for Johnson County. If chosen, artists will decorate a 5-foot-tall fiberglass bison that will be displayed along the bicentennial Torch Relay route.

What: The United Way is asking artists to submit a proposal of how they would decorate the bison. The design and theme of the paintings should depict Johnson County in a creative way.

Who: Applicants must reside in or have a connection to Johnson County.

When: Applications and submissions must be received by noon May 27. Artist selection will be made by a committee of county United Way volunteers no later than June 1. The project should be completed by July 15.

How: For additional information or to obtain an application, call Kerri Powers Hoffman, campaign/communications associate with United Way of Johnson County, at 317-736-7840. Submissions may be mailed at P.O. Box 153, Franklin, IN 46131, or hand-delivered to the United Way of Johnson County office at 460 N. Morton St., Franklin, or can be sent via email at campaign@uwjc.org.

Anna Herkamp is an editorial assistant at the Daily Journal. She can be reached at aherkamp@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2712.