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MUNSTER — Standing 4 feet tall outside of Humane Indiana’s Shelter and Clinic, a hand-painted owl named "Arlene" perches on a small stone.

She and more decorated owls like her will become fixtures across the Region later this summer.

Humane Indiana kicked off the Owl Public Art Project in a dedication Tuesday by showing off the first in the series of painted owls that will be located outside local businesses, schools and other organizations.

"This initiative is a unique way to bring schools, local businesses and artists together in the community to help the animals in Northwest Indiana," said Brian Fitzpatrick, Humane Indiana's CEO.

The 50-pound, fiberglass figures are a canvas for local artists. Participants have the opportunity to purchase or sponsor an owl and work with a local artist on design of the sculpture. Pat Popa, owner of Popa Heating & Cooling, led the design and production process of the owl sculptures. As of Tuesday, close to 40 owls had been sold by the organization. 

"This is just phenomenal," said J. Michael Katz, who bought "Arlene" the owl. "I never thought it could turn out like this. It's beautiful."

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"Arlene" is named after Arlene J. Heward, who died in 2018. She grew up in Gary and taught for 35 years at her alma mater, Horace Mann High School. Her love of animals is what led Katz to participate in the project in Heward's memory. His mother and Heward were best friends. 

Munster artist Abbie Hoogeveen painted "Arlene" and included depictions of the Horace Mann building and lagoon. It also features Heward taking photos in the background. The owl statue will become a permanent fixture at the shelter.

"This has really been a great project," Katz said. "I couldn't be happier with the end product."

Participation in the project benefits animals at Humane Indiana Shelter and Clinic in Munster and services and educational programming at the Wildlife Education Center in Valparaiso. The project was partially funded through a grant by the Indiana Arts Commission and South Shore Arts.

Submissions for participation in the art project were due June 25. Soon, the sculptures will be delivered to participants. Finished pieces will be displayed at the sponsor’s location choice by July 15 for the entirety of the exhibit, which runs until Oct. 15. Owls that have been sponsored, but not purchased, will be showcased at the "Owl You Need is Love" auction in November at the Porter County Expo Center and will be auctioned as a part of Humane Indiana’s fundraising efforts to support animals.   

An owl map will be available via The Times and Humane Indiana's website later in the summer once all of the owls have been placed.

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Porter County General Assignment Reporter

Emily covers Porter County news and features for The Times. A transplant from NW Ohio to NWI, Emily loves talking to people and hearing their stories. She graduated from the University of Toledo in 2018 and believes all dogs are good dogs.