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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 (], via Wikimedia Commons

“Inversion” house by Havel Ruck Projects Source: By Nick Douglas; artwork by Dan Havel and Dean Ruck [CC-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 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Cortney Martin from Houston, TX, USA (19th Street) [CC 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

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