DeKALB – A local business is working with a Northern Illinois University program to bring new energy to the Huskies on Parade, a public art project born in the wake of a tragedy.
On Feb. 14, 2008, the DeKalb and Sycamore community came together in shock and grief after a former student opened fire in a lecture hall at NIU. Five students were killed and 17 injured before the shooter turned the gun on himself.
That summer, a grassroots effort put Huskies on Parade in motion. Businesses, community groups, and individuals sponsored local artists to paint fiberglass husky dog statues.
Each artist painted a 40-inch dog, given to the sponsor, and a half-size replica. The small dogs were displayed in the 2008 NIU Homecoming parade and later sold at auction. Auction proceeds supported a scholarship honoring the five students who died.
Fourteen years later, many of the big dogs are still displayed at locations around the area. As businesses have closed or moved, some statues have disappeared from public view.
In 2021, DeKalb business OC Creative relaunched the Huskies on Parade website. The site includes a map of all known statue locations.
“We have a desire to see the arts flourish and expand in our community and to continue honoring the story behind these works of art,” OC President Brian Oster said in a news release.
Oster became involved in the project while brainstorming ideas for the students in NIU’s 40TUDE Business program. 40TUDE connects students studying marketing with local organizations in need of marketing help.
While looking for ways to give the students website experience, Oster discovered the original Huskies on Parade website had lapsed.
“I looked for details about the Huskies on Parade and couldn’t find much online,” he said in the release. “Here we have these beautiful painted sculptures around the community and no one was telling their story.”
More than 40 statues were painted for the original art project. The online map at www.huskiesonparade.com shows confirmed locations for about half of them. OC is hoping the community will help them locate the dogs whose whereabouts are unknown.
Organizations that are home to a husky statue are encouraged to contact OC and make sure their dog is on the map. People who have a dog no longer on display are encouraged to reach out as well, particularly if they would like to see the statue returned to public view.
“If you have a statue that needs a home, contact me,” Oster said. “Whether inside offices or outside buildings, we will find them forever homes.”
Source: The Daily Chronicle