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Dan Havel Public Art: “Wildlife Sanctuary” in Houston

I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).

"Wildlife Sanctuary" by Dan Havel

"Wildlife Sanctuary" by Dan Havel

What Was This?

What appeared to be a portion of a partially submerged church by Dan Havel was certainly an attention grabber! It was the first sculpture seen as one headed north on the esplanade of Heights Boulevard off of Interstate 10. Many people got to see it during the temporary “True North” public art installation in Houston, Texas.

This sculpture was the brainchild of artist Dan Havel. He has been living and working in Houston now for many years. His sculptures often stop people in their tracks out of sheer curiosity and wonderment.

"Wildlife Sanctuary" by Dan Havel

"Wildlife Sanctuary" by Dan Havel

No Quicksand Here!

This portion of an old church that had been torn down was not sinking in quicksand. The land here is stable.

The salvaged part of the church from the Houston Heights area was intentionally re-purposed by Dan Havel into a decorative piece of art crooked steeple and all. That steeple was once hit by lightning, which is why it was twisted and bent.

"Wildlife Sanctuary" by Dan Havel

"Wildlife Sanctuary" by Dan Havel

Dan Havel

This local Houston artist graduated from Southwest Minnesota State University in 1981 with his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. He attained his Master of Fine Arts degree two years later from Minnesota State University.

Dan Havel stays very busy. He is a teacher and Art Director for the critically acclaimed St. John’s School here in Houston. The address of this 28-acre campus is 2401 Claremont Lane, Houston, Texas 77019.

1946 was when the school began. St. John’s has a long history of graduating students who excel in life endeavors. Dan Havel plays a definitive role in his role of encouraging art appreciation and perhaps even inspiring artists of the future.


St. John’s School

One of the top university prep schools in the country is located here in Houston, Texas. If a student is academically inclined and wishes to get into schools like Harvard, Stanford, Rice, or Yale, attending this not for profit private school might be something to consider.

There is an annual fee that ranges from a little over $20,000 to more than $24,000 per student for kindergarten through 12th grade. Some of the students receive scholarships. Arts is a part of the curriculum, and a minimum requirement of one credit is mandatory for graduation.

"Wildlife Sanctuary" by Dan Havel

"Wildlife Sanctuary" by Dan Havel

“Wildlife Sanctuary”

You can perhaps determine why this piece of sculpture was given its name by scrutinizing the photos. Take particular note of the picture above.

Did you notice the little ledges simulating tiny open windows with wide windowsills? This sculpture contains birdseed and lots of it! When people are not walking past this sculpture, many birds and probably squirrels as well have found this to be a source of easy to find sustenance. Thus the name “Wildlife Sanctuary.”

“Inversion” house by Havel Ruck Projects Source: By Nick Douglas; artwork by Dan Havel and Dean Ruck [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

“Inversion” house by Havel Ruck Projects Source: By Nick Douglas; artwork by Dan Havel and Dean Ruck [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Havel Ruck Projects

Dan Havel and Dean Ruck have teamed up and collaborated on quite a few unique projects together. Very often, their art projects are temporary, and their installations are in public settings.

They most often use recycled objects, and many people are sorry to see their art projects eventually disassembled and destroyed, making way for further development.

One such project was called “Inversion,” and many people got to see this as it was on a busy street near the Art League of Houston. For those who missed it, the video below tells more about it.

Artist of the Year

Houston Magazine, in 2009, awarded the title of Artist of the Year to both Dan Havel and Dean Ruck.

The Art League of Houston gave the Texas Artist of the Year award in 2014 to both artists once again as they collaborated in their Havel Ruck Projects.

You can see another example of one of their temporary art installations titled Fifth Ward Jam situated in the old fifth ward of Houston in the video below.

“True North” Exhibit

This “True North” public art exhibit on Heights Boulevard was only temporary and ended in November of 2014. It is still fun to see the creativity of the artists and the sculptures they created.

The other artists in this “True North” sculpture exhibit included the following:

  • Dean Ruck
  • Patrick Medrano
  • Steve Murphy
  • Paul Kittelson
  • Lee Littlefield
  • Ed Wilson, and
  • Carter Ernst
By Cortney Martin from Houston, TX, USA (19th Street) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Cortney Martin from Houston, TX, USA (19th Street) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Houston Heights

As you can tell from the photos which show the “Wildlife Sanctuary,” the Houston Heights is a neighborhood that has many trees. It has houses ranging from Victorian beauties to charming bungalows and everything in between. A well-established hike and bike trail are great for people who wish to exercise in safety away from streets with heavy traffic.

It is an old neighborhood not far from downtown Houston. The Heights is becoming increasingly high priced for people wishing to live in this diverse and yet exciting locale. It has a small-town atmosphere where people walk their dogs and ride their bicycles.

Many artists live there. For example, Gus Kopriva, who is a co-curator of the “True North” exhibit, has his Redbud Gallery located in the Heights at 11th Street and Courtland Street.

One can also see many examples of colorful mural artwork in the Heights.

"Wildlife Sanctuary" by Dan Havel

"Wildlife Sanctuary" by Dan Havel






This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Peggy Woods


Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 21, 2020:

Hi Dale,

There are lots of attention grabbers in Arizona! The Grand Canyon is one that gets worldwide attention! (Smile) Sedona is absolutely gorgeous! Perhaps you have seen nothing like this wildlife sanctuary, but I would venture a guess that few others, other than the ones who got to see this sculpture exhibit, did. It was an attention grabber for sure!

Dale Anderson from The High Seas on September 21, 2020:

Yeah it definitely grabs you're attention that's for sure. In Arizona, as far as I know, we aint got much to capture you like that. Plenty of desert but not much else. Unless you go up to Flagstaff, Sedona or places like that.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 29, 2020:

Hi Kari,

I have no idea if other cities have temporary sculpture exhibits or not. On public land, Houston only allows them to be up for nine months. One great one that we had called the "Funnel Tunnel," after it was taken down, was moved to another state. Many if not most of these temporary ones on exhibit are for sale.

Kari Poulsen from Ohio on February 29, 2020:

I have never heard of the temporary sculpture idea. It does sound nice to get a new one yearly.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 29, 2020:

Hi Manatita,

The only good thing about the temporary sculpture exhibits is that in the case of annual ones, we have the next one to look forward to seeing.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 29, 2020:

Hi Mary,

It is always nice when things are repurposed, whether it is an art piece or something else. I agree with you that this art piece was extremely eye-catching.

manatita44 from london on February 29, 2020:

Pretty innovative and far-reaching! I always admire those who would dare to be different. Even God is ever-transcending Itself. Some awesome pieces and yes, it is sad that sometimes they have to be removed.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on February 28, 2020:

I like the way Havel used something that was destroyed and transformed it into very eye-catching art. Thank you for sharing.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 28, 2020:

Hi Bill,

That is high praise from you. Dan Havel would appreciate your applause for his creation.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 28, 2020:

Hi FlourishAnyway,

It is fun showing off the creative work of artists in our area through this medium. Glad that you liked this.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 28, 2020:

Hi Raymond,

Dan Havel's work is creative in a way distinct from most other artists. Those temporary pieces of his and Dean Ruck, such as "Inversion," will be long remembered!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 28, 2020:

Hi Eddy,

Glad to have you back on board also! I agree that it is fun to read the posts of HubPage writers on topics of interest, giving us a break from the dire reports about coronavirus.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 28, 2020:

Hi Bushra,

The birdseed idea was inspired and makes sense of the title of this sculpture.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 28, 2020:

Hi Linda,

If the church was no longer functioning, at least a part of it was repurposed into an art piece. I always appreciate people who take what would be discarded items and then repurpose them.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 28, 2020:

I absolutely love that sculpture. Brilliant!

FlourishAnyway from USA on February 28, 2020:

I love this unusual art and especially liked that recycling was involved and birdseed was used in that church. The church is visually stunning.

Raymond Philippe from The Netherlands on February 28, 2020:

What wonderful pieces of art. I wasn't familiar with Dan Havel's work. But I can certainly enjoy this.

Eiddwen from Wales on February 28, 2020:

A great hub Peggy . Well researched and so interesting, also interesting that most people had voted the same as I did. So nice to be reading great hubs like this again as all we are hearing around us is 'coronavirus 'etc. I'd never heard of this sanctuary so thank you for sharing Peggy.

Anya Ali from Rabwah, Pakistan on February 27, 2020:

A sculpture with birdseed and 'windows' - what a lovely idea!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on February 27, 2020:

I love the fact that the sculpture is acting as both art and a wildlife feeder. It's sad that the church no longer exists, but I like the way in which part of it has been re-purposed.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 27, 2020:

Hi Donna,

So glad that you enjoyed the video. These artists are simply amazing!

Donna Rayne from Greenwood, Indiana on February 27, 2020:

Peggy, thank you for sharing this. It was captivating and interesting to see this kind of art and I lost myself in the video and it was awesome!


Donna Rayne

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 27, 2020:

Hi Pamela,

Unusual is undoubtedly a good word to describe this sculpture! Sometimes the sculptures bring smiles to people's faces and have others scratching their heads. At least they stimulate conversations!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on February 27, 2020:

These sculptures are certainly unsual. I don't really know how to interpret the church roof. There are so many unique things to see in Houston and the are all so interesting. Your articles are always complete.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 27, 2020:

Hello Sarmad,

It is true that everyone interprets art differently.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 27, 2020:

Hi Liz,

We have so much good public art in the Houston area, and these temporary exhibits, which are only on view for nine months at a time, add to the visual interest of the changing landscape. I am happy to show them off to you and others.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 27, 2020:

Hi Ruby,

This sculpture made an unusual bird feeder for sure! It certainly was an attention getter!

SarmadAli88 on February 27, 2020:

Beauty in art can only be seen by Artists and Aesthetes.

Liz Westwood from UK on February 27, 2020:

I feel like I am getting a tour of interesting art installations in your articles. This is another fascinating hub.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on February 27, 2020:

I like that they have seed for the wildlife. It is one of my passions, feeding all kinds of birds and one squirrel who comes to my feeder, summer and winter. This is an unusual display. Nicely done.

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