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Painted owls take wing in Highland, Region to benefit Humane Indiana

Painted owls take wing in Highland, Region to benefit Humane Indiana

Don’t expect these owls to take flight.

They weigh 50-60 pounds each and stand nearly as tall as actor Danny DeVito. Their colors, however, are definitely beyond nature. 

They are part of Owl You Need is Love, a Northwest Indiana public art project, with area artists bringing fiberglass owls to creative life.

“We’re pretty excited about it. It’s remarkable how they stand out,” Highland Town Council member Steve Wagner says of the birds that are landing in town.

Pat Popa, owner of Popa Heating and Cooling in Highland and community booster, came up with the owl concept. She knows something about public art projects, starting with a two-week scarecrow display contest in 2001.

“It was such a big hit, I thought, why not do something that is sustained and on display longer?” Recent art projects have been the Bulldogs on the Square in Crown Point and the Highland Downtown Ducks. This year the nearly 50 painted owls will be on display in the Region until Oct. 15.

Popa’s inspiration took flight at Humane Indiana. “They have owls and people love to see and feed them,” says Popa. The nonprofit wildlife center on 28 acres in Valparaiso rehabilitates injured and orphaned wildlife, caring for them until they are ready to be returned to their natural habitat. Wildlife that can’t be returned remain at the center as “ambassadors” to the public.

Depending on the level of sponsorship participants chose, they can keep the commissioned owl or put it up for auction, with proceeds going to the wildlife center. The auction will be in mid-November, date and location to be announced.

Sponsors purchased the big fiberglass birds and provided themes and sometimes designs, choosing puns for some, including Owl Protect You.

 “We were looking for something significant in our nation’s history," says Wagner of the Highland town council. "It’s the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, so we wanted to recognize that. The art’s a pretty phenomenal job."

Businesses, individuals, and schools are sponsors. Schools have a special rate and the students have a two-hour educational assembly with wildlife brought in to show.

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

Albert’s Diamond Jewelers has joined in the fun by designing a small charm for a necklace or bracelet with a little crystal chip for the eye of the owl. A silver charm is $195, a gold one $295, and proceeds go to Humane Indiana.

The owl’s locations will be on a map at


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