Salt Licks: Works of Art, Yes!

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Over the past 13 years, the Great Salt Lick Contest in Oregon has raised more than $150,000 for charity. (Wit Deschner)

Who Says Horses and Cows Can’t Be Artists?

by Jennifer Nalewicki Smithsonian.com

What exactly makes something qualify as a piece of art? For Whit Deschner, nothing is out of the question, especially if it’s a well-licked salt block.

For the past 13 years, the retired fisherman turned writer and photographer has been organizing The Great Salt Lick Contest, where he invites fellow ranchers, farmers and anyone else with access to grazing mammals to submit carved salt licks. But there’s a catch: an animal must be the one responsible for the sculpture and can use nothing but its tongue to shape divots, swirls and whorls into the 50-pound square block.

What started out as a joke amongst friends has morphed into a friendly competition that also happens to be for a good cause. Over the years, Deschner has auctioned off hundreds of salt licks and raised more than $150,000 for Parkinson’s disease research at the Oregon Health and Sciences University. (Deschner was diagnosed with the disease in 2000.)

So why did Deschner choose a salt lick, of all things, as an artistic medium in the first place?

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