Rocky, owl rescued from Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, inspires street art program in town, village of Saugerties – Daily Freeman
SAUGERTIES, NY – The village and town are paying homage to Rocky the Owl, a tiny owl that was found in Rockefeller Center’s Christmas tree last year and rehabilitated at the Ravensbeard Wildlife Center, with sculptures of street art in the shape of an owl.
Rocky’s story captivated the nation, receiving coverage on national news broadcasts. Thanks to Ellen Kalish’s care, she was able to return safely to the wild. Rocky had traveled with the famous Christmas tree from Oneonta to New York.
“Bowls are the smallest owls in North America. They only weigh three ounces,” said Saugerties Chamber of Commerce President Mark Smith. The chamber helps organize the long-running street art program, which began in 2009. Over the years, it has featured horses, lighthouses and sailboats.
This year’s program is called “Rocky in Saugerties”. Smith said it was already a hit with residents and visitors.
“The reaction has been very positive,” he said. “People are really excited. That’s a beautiful story.
Smith said they got the idea for the street art program after seeing Catskill’s Cat’N Around Catskill program, now in its 15th year. One of the artists making an owl also made a cat for Catskill, he added.
Smith said Kalish planned to write a book about Rocky the Owl, and director Ron Howard had secured the film rights for the story.
As for the sculpts, they’re based on Rocky’s face, but they had to scale things up a bit since real sawsaws are only about seven or eight inches tall, according to Smith. It was imperative that they looked cute, he added.
Smith said the sculptures started with him creating designs for the sculptures which are then cast in fiberglass in Nebraska. They ship to Saugerties in a white primer, ready for every artist to do their magic in March. The owls were installed by crews from the Village Public Works Department just before Memorial Day. They will remain until Labor Day and will be auctioned September 18 at 3 p.m. at a special gala at Kiersted Barn across from Cahill Elementary School.
Smith said removing them on Labor Day allows artists to clean them and make any necessary repairs ahead of the auction, which is also taking place online.
All owls are sponsored by a local business. Sometimes companies pool their money for registration fees. There are three referral levels: $600, $900, and $1,200.
Proceeds from sponsorships and auctions are shared, with one-third going to the artists, another third to the chamber and another third to a nonprofit organization, which will be Ravensbeard this year, Smith said. The funds also help sponsor a scholarship for Saugerties High School graduates.
Some of the long-time companies involved in the program include Sawyer Motors, which has a superhero-themed “Super Rocky” sculpture on the exterior, and Naccarato Insurance’s Saugerties office. Smith said one of her favorite sculptures, outside Stewart’s Shop convenience store on Main Street, depicts Rocky in the orange knit hat she was rescued in.
Smith said Sawyer Motors owner Bob Siracusano helped track down a local body shop that agreed to coat the sculptures for a fee of $10 per sculpture to protect them from a full summer of weather and weather. exhaust fumes from vehicles passing through the village. Some of the artists are chosen through a process where they submit sketches and then numbers are drawn, he said. In other cases, sponsors work with a specific artist, he added.
“This is a program that showcases the talents of local artists,” he said. “And it’s getting people to see the art that will hopefully hit restaurants and stores and help the economy.”
Smith said the artists take part in a class with Barbara Bravo, who helps organize the Saugerties Artists Studio Tour that takes place every summer. He said she helps guide artists and gives them advice such as staying away from copyrighted material like Disney characters or branded logos.
Among the performers is Katie Fisher, from Saugerties. Fisher’s sculpture, titled ‘After Yesterday’, stands outside Mirabella on Partition Street. She shared her owl’s story as she helped customers at Violet’s Bakery on Partition Street.
“I wanted to create a sort of surreal landscape,” Fisher said. “The owl is shaped like a mountain and I wanted to give it that character. There is a cave of solitude.
Fisher typically works in printmaking and illustration and she admitted it’s a little different working in 3D. “People are walking around there and I wanted to create an interactive experience as you walk around.”
Tickets for the Sept. 18 gala and auction are $25 in advance and can be purchased at Smith’s Hardware on Main Street or Town and Country Liquors at CVS Plaza on State Route 212 off the interstate. Tickets are $30 at the door.
Photos: Owl sculptures on display in the town and village of Saugerties