For the past 14 years, colorful fiberglass squirrels of all designs have graced the city of Olean’s parks, walkways and the front of businesses and organizations.
This spring, the rest of the region will be treated to a look at Olean’s whimsical critters in a photo story published in Western New York Heritage magazine, says Char Szabo-Perricelli, resource development manager for the non-profit publication.
The squirrels are part of the Woodland in the City project that was started in 2006. The project, which was first met with some skepticism, took off in the community as the first 14 four-foot high fiberglass squirrels were unveiled in May 2007. Another five were unveiled in November 2007.
Each squirrel was decorated by a local artist according to the wishes of its sponsor. The statues were displayed where the sponsors selected for a time and later auctioned in 2009.
According to the City of Olean Squirrel Page, the squirrels “fashioned by the creative minds of Amy Sherburne, Bob Sherburne, Mark Barta and Evelyn Penman meant to promote the arts in the City as well as the local merchants who sponsored them. There are 28 squirrels in the city but plans could be in the works for more.
“All proceeds from this fundraising project will benefit the Historical & Preservation Society, located in Olean. The donation will be used by this organization to develop and implement a plan for a children’s hands-on learning museum based on Olean’s history and how its natural surroundings influenced its early settlement.”
Szabo-Perricelli, who lives in the Southern Tier, admits she is a longtime fan of Olean’s fiberglass squirrels.
“It’s exciting to see one of my ‘pet’ loves to photograph (the squirrel sculptures) and telling so many people about them who were surprised to know about them,” Szabo-Perricelli says. “I can’t wait for the story to finally come out and get people (to Olean) to visit and see these cuties for themselves while patronizing the local businesses while they’re there.”
A spokesperson for the city of Olean says the squirrels have long served as an attraction for visitors and tourists.