Fifty-two artistically designed fiberglass owls have been gracing the streets of Coxsackie and New Baltimore since June, but this weekend they are getting ready to fly the coop.
The owls will be put up for auction in the inaugural gala and auction held by the What a Hoot! Festival Committee, and will soon find their way into new homes.
The public art exhibit was launched early this year, mirroring similar art projects held in neighboring towns like Ravena, with its trains; Catskill, with its cats; and Cairo, with its bears.
For Coxsackie, the timing was particularly fortuitous – 2017 is the village’s 150th anniversary.
So word went out that artists, of all skill levels and experiences, were needed to design and decorate the owls in their own inimitable style. Business owners were also recruited to sponsor the art project.
Artists came from all over, most of them locally, but some from far away as well.
“Word spread, and people who are aware of similar festivals in other towns have been drawn to this – and we have artists from South Carolina, Florida and locally, as well,” said Susan Baldaserini, publicity coordinator for the What a Hoot! Festival.
It started with a single owl, dubbed “Freedom,” created by artist Ellen DeLucia – a veteran of the Cat’n Around Catskill public art exhibit – who showed fellow artists what could be done with a plain white fiberglass owl.
And the artists responded, created everything from the “Owl Capone” rendition of infamous mobster Al Capone, to the “Night Owl Super Moon,” to “Hooting and a Hollowin.”
The possibilities appeared to be endless.
“The fascinating, and perhaps not surprising thing, is that curating a wide range of artists is going to produce a wide range of owl designs,” Baldaserini said. “From hyper-realist representations, to fictional characters, to patriotic messages, to fashion icons, sentimental themes, local landscapes and beyond, the breadth of owl concepts in our inaugural collection is imaginative and fantastic.”
The response from the community has been equally enthusiastic, she added.
“The overall feedback has been terrific,” according to Baldaserini. “People have expressed much excitement about driving around town to seek out all 52 of the owls. It’s been a very positive experience for both the artists and the community.”
As a business owner on Reed Street in downtown Coxsackie, Baldaserini said she has seen the economic benefits the owl exhibit has brought to the community.
“As a business owner, it has been so cool to sit in the shop and see new faces, new cars, and [drivers with] out-of-state license plates snapping pictures of the owls. It has been great to see the traffic and interest it has brought to the town,” she said.
But while the owls have spent the entire summer and the start of fall on street corners, in front of businesses, and scattered throughout both Coxsackie and New Baltimore, it’s now time for them to find their forever homes. The owls will be auctioned off to the highest bidders this weekend, on Saturday, Sept. 29, from 6-9 p.m.
Starting bid for each of the owls will be $500; money raised at the auction will be given, after expenses, to several local charities.
In other similar auctions, these types of public artworks have gone for sometimes less, and sometimes far more.
“In Catskill, we noticed that many of the cats wind up selling for over $2,000, so with our inaugural auction we are hoping to raise a significant amount of money,” Baldaserini said.
The auction and gala will be held in a lot adjacent to Red’s Restaurant on State Route 9W. Tickets purchased online prior to the event are $35, with tickets at the door $45. To buy tickets online, visit www.showtix4u.com and search for “What a Hoot”. The gala and auction will include a cocktail hour with a cash bar and food from 16 area restaurants.
Proceeds from the auction and gala will be divided among five local nonprofit groups – the Coxsackie Food Pantry, Friends of Heermance Memorial Library, Sleepy Hollow Lake Helping Hands, the Coxsackie Police Athletic League (PAL), and the Coxsackie-Athens Scholarship.