CALM’s animal for the ages
Known as a silent flyer, the owl has now become the silent, but impressive, guardian of transportation at the California Living Museum (CALM) in Bakersfield. Approximately 9 feet tall and weighing 3,000 pounds, the metal interpretation of a great horned owl, resting on a pedestal of native stones, resides inside the Central California Children’s Railroad venue at CALM. Dedication of the artwork, by local celebrity sculptor Betty Younger took place on April 3.
Younger and husband Milton officially donated the work of art before an audience that included Kern County Superintendent of Schools Christine Lizardi Frazier, visitors, CALM Foundation board members, staff and media. Large crowds were already enjoying CALM’s Spring Fling, which annually offers a special children’s admission during the week schools are out. A surprise train stop next to the sculpture permitted visiting parents and children to take part in the dedication ceremony, too.
Frazier stood beside the Youngers under the seemingly protective, all-searching gaze of the huge-eyed owl. She expressed her thanks and expectations for the new monument.
“Very few things at CALM are directed just to the children,” Frazier said. “Betty wanted to do something that would get kids excited about coming here, and that would give them the curiosity to find out more about the great horned owl. Its position will be ideal for it to be seen by children riding the train and that should get them really excited.”
Younger said the project took approximately four years to complete. She did not want to rush it because CALM was working on opening the Cats of California (mountain lions and bobcats) exhibit at the time, and Younger did not want to take the effort away from making that happen. She said the inspiration came from a visit to a metal salvage yard.
“I was touring the back lot and saw these huge pieces of pipe,” Younger said. “I could see the eyes, the way it was curved. It was so stimulating. I had a 40 foot trailer and left with three huge pieces of pipe loaded onto it. I saw it as an animal and a way to get children involved in art and animals. The eyes will watch over the children, the traffic on Alfred Harrell Highway and the people who live around CALM. It’s eyes are always open and never shut. It’s my gift to CALM and the children of Kern County.”
Children in the future will have to be content with viewing the owl as the train passes by it. Those there for the dedication, actually got to go up close, size it up from all angles and feel the texture of the sculpture.
“It’s going to attract a lot of kids,” said Ana Gamboa, who traveled to CALM from Earlimart with her children. “It will open up their imagination. The image is really attention grabbing. It represents everything CALM is about – animals living in the wilderness.”
Probably not by chance, just outside the exit from the railroad venue, CALM volunteer docent Robin Jaske was showing off a real, live screech owl to visitors who strolled by.
“An interesting fact about owls is that their eyes are fixed in their heads,” Jaske told those who came for a closer look. “They don’t have ocular muscles to move their eyes side-to-side. That’s why they can turn their heads so far around to the rear. Their feathers are different from all other birds which allows them to be silent flyers.”
There is more owl fun planned for the county’s children. CALM has announced a “Name the Owl” contest. Younger will help CALM pick the winner who will receive a family membership to CALM and a Great Horned Owl stuffed toy. Check with CALM, http://www.calmzoo.org, for more details.