From Manukau to Birkenhead, Botany to New Lynn, they have landed under cover of darkness to bring a ray of sunshine into the lives of Aucklanders.

While owls and our native ruru (morepork) aren't often seen during the day, there are now 47 giant ones and 60 owlets perched on our streets, in shopping malls, libraries and art centres and at tourist attractions.

They're part of an owl-some fundraiser and the biggest mass-participation public art trail ever seen in the region. While it's called The Haier Big Hoot, there's serious intent behind the event which aims to raise about $300,000 for the Child Cancer Foundation.

Some of our leading artists spent about 10 weeks late last year, each transforming blank 1.65m hollow fibreglass structures — in the shape of owls — into individually decorated works of art.

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Summer, 2, and Elodie, 4, with mum, Angela Ruthenberg check out Full Moon Ruru, created by Bernie Harflett and Donna Turtle-Sarten, one of the 47 owl sculptures on display around Auckland as part of the Haier Big Hoot art trail.
Summer, 2, and Elodie, 4, with mum, Angela Ruthenberg check out Full Moon Ruru, created by Bernie Harflett and Donna Turtle-Sarten, one of the 47 owl sculptures on display around Auckland as part of the Haier Big Hoot art trail.

To see the owls is to be dazzled by the sheer variety of designs, patterns and colour combinations the likes of Dick Frizzell, Jeff Thomson, Flox, Peata Larkin, Weilun Ha and Charles & Janine Williams and Bernie Harfleet and Donna Turtle Sarten have created.

Even The Hits Breakfast crew of Sarah, Sam and Toni, along with artist Paul Walsh, got in on the act by decorating an owl called Beach T'Owl. Auckland schools also joined, getting behind the initiative in support of their students and teachers who have been affected by cancer. Schools have decorated some 61 smaller owls as part of the Little Hoot.

Just one day on the streets and they're already bringing smiles to the faces of passersby. Elodie, 4, and Summer, 2, Ruthenberg noticed the owls while out on a morning walk with their mum, Angela, around Wynyard Wharf and the Viaduct Basin.

Visiting from Australia, they're now looking forward to seeing them more often and are intrigued to see where they might pop up next.

Haier Big Hoot art curator Monique Cairns says the trail, which opens today, is a must-see for those seeking a free and fun family activity. Ms Cairns says the free trail is great for getting people out and getting fit, bringing families together and encouraging people to look at art in different ways.

There are also opportunities for collectors looking to scope out unique artwork for their collection. The owls will be auctioned on Tuesday, May 29 which coincides with the 40th anniversary of the Child Cancer Foundation.

Every week more than three New Zealand children were diagnosed with cancer and the Foundation aims to provide each family who wanted one with a family support co-ordinator who could help guide them through the process. At any time, the Foundation, which receives no direct government funding, can be helping more than 500 families nationwide.

"Owls are icons of storytelling, well known to represent wisdom, migration, diversity, learning and intelligence," says Foundation chief executive Robyn Kiddle. "As with owls, every child and family who has walked the child cancer journey has their own unique story to tell. Each owl sculpture will share a unique and meaningful story."

The project is presented by Child Cancer Foundation in partnership with Wild in Art.