Thursday, June 1, 2023

The Night Watchwoman: An Ode to the Mill Girls of Lowell’s Industrial History

The Lowell Watchwoman is an owl avatar that is dedicated to all of the Mill Girls who made the Lowell Mills an early success. The earliest Mill “Watchmen” were women. These older “Madams”, as they were called, secured the premises and watched over the young single women mill employees, taking turns at night to stroll the mills and assure the girls’ safety.

The barn owl is a night hunter that appears white with glints of gold as it soars over alleys and back yards seeking mice and rats. For almost 100 years an iconic family of barn owls was protected in the attics of the mills. Their presence was seen as good luck as they assured mice and rats were kept clear of the great brick factories.

The Night Watchwomen left many diary notes about their magical presence: “Like one of my girls in a slip, with wings in a dream, my dearest owl lofted off in moonlight to seek dinner for the five chicks clustered at the window. All is quiet. 1:30 a.m. May 12, 1843. Massachusetts Mill #2.” Amelia Bartlett, Night Watchwoman diary.

The Lowell Watchwoman celebrates the new extended Lowell River Walk of this historic district. By day, the wings of the Barn Owl, the vaulted space shelters pedestrians and by night, The Owl’s watchful eyes, delights all who pass by her at night.

The Night Watchwoman was featured on a recent episode of Innovation Showcase, produced by Jay Sugarman. Watch the video online. The Lowell Sun published a preview article by Melanie Gilbert that made the headline news on Friday April 28, 2023. Read the article online.

Photos courtesy of Hoang Nguyen

The Power of Three: For the love of Northern Saw Whet Owls


As one of the tiniest owls in the Northeastern USA, the Saw Whet is mostly silent and stays well hidden in thickets and small trees. Totally nocturnal they are rarely seen and can only be heard during the late winter breeding season. Their call to their mate is a repeated tooting whistle. Some say they sound like a saw being sharpened on a whetstone. Gentle and devoted to their young, these owls are generally unafraid and can be approached and observed closely. They are abundant in this area, even in the city, but so discrete, few of us ever see them.

This sculpture is dedicated to the many long term residents in this Salem Mass. neighborhood, and the abundant fans of this tiny precious park. Like the Northern Saw Whet Owl, Patten Park is a hidden gem. The Power of Three invites all who visit this park to wander through the paths, explore the mysterious space within, and discover its delight.

Photo credit: Fae Phoenix Photo

This project was made possible by the Making it Public Program in partnership with the New England Foundation for the Arts, Metropolitan Area Planning Council, and the Salem Public Art Commission 2023.

Sunday, April 2, 2023

World Bamboo Workshop Vietnam 2022

Held in Binh Duong province, on the grounds of Phu An Bamboo Village, approximately 125 people from over 20 countries gathered together to experience the wonders of bamboo and learn from global experts on various aspects of this versatile natural resource. The most spontaneous build came as a result of the creative sculptors, The Myth Makers, Andy Moerlein & Donna Dodson (USA). We designed a representation of the legendary bird of Vietnamese mythology, the Chim Lac! This creation was adorned with festive lights in honor of World Bamboo Day, as we marched alongside the Mid-Autumn Festival with children galore! Singing and shouting of "BAMBOO" echoed through the bamboo groves; it was magical. See the video produced by Bryan McClelland.

It was our pleasure to collaborate with an international team of artists to realize this project. Thank you to everyone who made it possible: Susanne Lucas, Martin Mortera Abdi, Peter Van Lengen, Nguyen Manh Tuan, My Hanh Diep, Edgar Banasan, Michel Abadie and so many more! For more information, check out this short film by Santosh Oinam : the 4th World Bamboo Workshop, 2022.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Owl Hollow


Nestled into the Little’s Garden at the STEAM & Science centered Discovery Museum in Acton Massachusetts is a family of giant Owls. Built by the Myth Makers during an artist residency, with bamboo and zip ties, this art installation invites children and families to enter, play and explore. Inspired by the local family of barred owls that nest in the hollows of the trees in the surrounding Great Hill Conservation area woods, this family of barred owls is snuggled close together. Children can peer out of the hollow through the brightly colored window openings and pass between the owl family through multiple doors. This installation is sure to be a crowd pleaser and the best part is that with each season it will be transformed by the changing landscape.


Friday, June 10, 2022

Avian Avatars at the Dawes Arboretum

 The Dawes Arboretum welcomes The Myth Makers for the largest art exhibition in its history

The Myth Makers build six monumental bamboo structures inspired by The Arboretum

(Newark, OH) – The Dawes Arboretum welcomes six monumental sculptures from artists The Myth Makers, with the exhibit scheduled to open to the public on May 27 2022. The bamboo birds—some standing more than 20 feet tall—are currently being built for The Dawes Arboretum by The Myth Makers, Donna Dodson and Andy Moerlein, in New Jersey at an industrial scale artist residency, Gardenship. These will be the tallest art pieces ever shown at The Dawes Arboretum.

Built with bamboo and mixed media, the sculptures, coined “Avian Avatars” by Dodson and Moerlein, will be placed throughout The Arboretum and remain until Spring 2023. Made from natural materials, the sculptures are site-specific and are meant to slowly disappear into nature over the course of their life.

“The Myth Makers are inspiring artists and we could not be more thrilled to welcome their work to The Arboretum,” said Luke Messinger, Executive Director for The Dawes Arboretum. “These sculptures are the first of their kind on our grounds and we are excited for guests to see them among our beautiful landscapes.”

The Myth Makers’ inspiration comes from a mutual love of nature. For Dodson, that’s specifically the mysterious nature of birds, and for Moerlein its events that leave visual marks in nature. Each sculpture coming to The Dawes Arboretum will represent an iconic local bird, and each will have its own historical backstory: “Love Long Last” is a pair of Northern Cardinals representing The Arboretum’s founders; “Bertie’s Peacock is a peacock representing Bertie Dawes’ passion for the magnificent bird; “The Gentleman” is an Eastern Bluebird in honor of Beman’s Great-Grandfather, Manasseh Cutler and his love of trees; “Towering” is a Sandhill Crane representing the iconic Columbus artist Ann Hamilton; and “The Great Owl” is a Great Horned  Owl that acknowledges the original inhabitants of this landscape and the significance of the panoramic views surrounding the Arboretum.

Dodson and Moerlein have completed more than 50 projects together internationally and have received multiple national awards and recognitions. The duo will travel to Newark two weeks prior to the opening to finish up the building process and make sure their Avian Avatars are secured and assembled.

“The Avian Avatars we are preparing for The Dawes Arboretum are for The Arboretum,” Dodson said. “Andy and I look at the entire community when we are gathering inspiration. Anyone who sees our work at The Dawes Arboretum will recognize each bird from their own story. They will know these sculptures aren’t just a passing installation—they will know they are meant to be there.”

The Gentleman

This Eastern Bluebird is named in honor of Manasseh Cutler (1742 –1823) the great grandfather of arboretum founder Beman Gates Dawes. Mr. Cutler is considered a founder of Ohio University who wrote the Ordinance of 1787 that prohibited slavery in the Northwest Territory.

Manasseh was a renowned amateur botanist. His writings reveal a fascination for the social aspects of gardens and a deep respect for the culture that trees and gardens nurture.

Beman Dawes brought this vision to life when he established the Arboretum. The Eastern Bluebird is one of many birds who rely on the abundant tree life of the Dawes Arboretum to build their cavity nests. But he is by far the most dapper of them all.

2022. Bamboo, wire ties and mixed media 15 ft tall.

The Great Owl

The Great Owl takes a long view of time and place. This sculpture acknowledges that it is located on the unceded ancestral homelands of the Hopewell, Kaskaskia, Myaamia and Shawandasse Tula (Shawanwaki/Shawnee). The Great Owl stands as witness of the long history of racism and oppression in the United States and strives to honor the contemporary lives of Indigenous peoples.

As you sit and contemplate this place, let us all appreciate the significance of the panoramic view surrounding the Dawes Arboretum and the many lives that have cherished this unique landscape.

2022. Bamboo, wire ties and mixed media, 25 ft tall

Bertie’s Peacock

Beman Dawes’ passion for the arboretum rivaled Bertie Burr Dawes’ vision for the gardens. She drew endless delight researching every living thing suitable to a formal garden including peacocks. From her journal: “Their first food was a purple violet, and after spurning my bread crumbs, they settled in the Lily of the Valley bed, then nipped off the Poet’s Narcissus. Food for the Gods, surely.”

The peacock is an extravagant bird with many different interpretations in myth and legend. They are a symbol of integrity and the beauty we can achieve when we endeavor to show our true colors. In Jewish lore, the peacock is a symbol for joy and creativity, whereas Chinese mythology associates the peacock with the sweet harmony of sound. For many, its magic iridescent feathers evoke the cosmos.

2021. Bamboo, wire ties and mixed media, 25 ft tall


She stands head and shoulders above the rest, referencing two iconic Ohioans, the sandhill crane and Ann Hamilton. Ohio Native and Columbus resident Ann Hamilton is an outstanding artist. She has received the National Medal of the Arts, a MacArthur Fellowship and the international honor of representing the United States in the 1999 Venice Biennale.

"Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language. The quality of cranes lies in this higher gamut, as yet beyond the reach of words."

-Aldo Leopold

2022. Bamboo, wire ties and mixed media, 30 ft tall.

Love Long Last

Northern Cardinals are social creatures. They mate for life and enjoy romantic partnerships. Males feed the females beak to beak throughout their summer courtship and often sing softly to each other. Without equal, their popularity, vibrant colors and melodic songs have made them the state bird of Ohio. These two birds stand independently but evoke a powerful camaraderie and friendship.

In folklore Cardinals have great significance. The belief that Cardinals are spiritual messengers exists in many cultures. They are seen as harbingers of good health, renewal, and loving relationships. Whether it is an omen or just a delight, it is evident that sighting a red cardinal makes everyone happy.

2019. Bamboo, wire ties and mixed media, 20 ft tall each.

About The Dawes Arboretum
Founded in 1929 by Beman and Bertie Dawes, The Dawes Arboretum is a living museum celebrating the history and beauty of trees and nature.  Located in Newark, Ohio (30 miles east of Columbus), The Dawes Arboretum offers paths, trails and boardwalks to explore along with historical and art exhibitions and educational programming. The Dawes Arboretum is recognized by the National Registry of Historic Places and is open daily. Admission is free to members and $10/adults, $5/children ages 5-15 and free/children under 5 years of age. Additional information on visiting, programming, history and membership is available at

Update:  ABC interviewed us live on Sunday May 29, 2022 for this special Dawes Arboretum 'Myth Makers' Preview by Latricia Polk. The Columbus Dispatch reviewed this exhibit in their Sunday Edition on June 5th, Impressive king-sized bird sculptures a feather in artistic duo's caps with a full length article by Nancy Gilson. Accompanying this review is a slide show of 16 installation images by the photographer, Joshua Bickel. Spectrum News featured The Avian Avatars, 20 ft Bird Sculptures, on Display at The Dawes Arboretum on June 10, 2022 in a special report by Brionna Rivers.Avian Avatars, 20-foot bird sculptures, on display at The Dawes ArboretumAvian Avatars, 20-foot bird sculptures, on display at The Dawes ArboretumAvian Avatars, 20-foot bird sculptures, on display at The Dawes Arboretum

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Night and Day

Night and Day- a magical pair of magpies symbolizing the Alaskan experience built by the Myth Makers for the Alaska Botanical Garden

Every Alaskan knows about the long winter nights and short winter days that become the long summer days and short summer nights. Built during the summer solstice at the Alaska Botanical Garden, this pair of avian avatars will remain on view through the winter solstice. Sited facing one another across the walking path, they act as a gateway as guests explore the gardens. Night and Day celebrate the changing light that defines the experience of living in this unique climate using the magpie, an iconic Alaskan bird to convey this message. One is white, symbolizing the day or light, and one is black, symbolizing the night or darkness. Together they tell the story of the unique ecology of the Alaskan environment.

Watch Alaska’s News Source TV coverage of this installation, Unique sculptures built at Alaska Botanical Garden.

Read more about this project in the Anchorage Daily News, July 11, 2021, by Emily Mesner, "Giant Magpie Sculptures rise along trail at Alaska Botnaical Garden."

Monday, May 31, 2021

Caterpillar Crawl and Butterfly Fairy Frolic

The Myth Makers were one of six artist teams selected to create new work for the Tower Hill Botanic Garden "Wild Hideaways: Designed for Adventure" exhibit in Boylston Massachusetts. The "Caterpillar Crawl" and the "Butterfly Fairy Frolic" celebrate the life cycle of the monarch butterfly. The sculptures invite play and exploration from visitors of all ages while drawing attention to the relationship between milkweed and the survival of this unique creature.

The Caterpillar Crawl is designed to invite exploration from visitors of all ages. This sculpture celebrates the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) in its larval stage and is made of bamboo – a renewable, sustainable, natural material. When woven together, the bamboo mimics the wriggly shapes and contours of a caterpillar. The Caterpillar Crawl is designed to invite exploration from all ages

This sculpture celebrates the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) and its journey from egg, to caterpillar, to pupa, and finally to butterfly. Imagine that a fairy has waved their wand over a caterpillar and changed it into a butterfly. Nature’s magic! We invite you to use your imagination as you enter and explore the sculpture, frolic with the fairies, and then emerge into the fields. Will you be changed, too?

Watch a Behind the Scenes video of this exhibit.

At the close of this exhibit at the Tower Hill Botanic Garden, The Myth Makers moved the Butterfly Fairy Folic to Artspace Maynard where it was installed prominently in the sculpture garden to celebrate Maynard's Sesquicentennial. This project is supported in part by a grant from the Maynard Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

At the close of the installation at Artspace Maynard, the Butterfly Fairy flew to her new home in Ashburnham at the New Dawn Arts Center just in time for the fall Harvest festival.

As a  symbol of transformation, she fits right into this quintessential and historic spiritual New England landscape. Be sure to stop by and see her with her newly designed iridescent wings.

The Phoenix Festival


The Phoenix Festival was commissioned by the Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge for A New View Camden. The City of Camden New Jersey won this American Cities grant to fight illegal dumping in the community. For this project the Myth Makers designed a pair of monumental mythical phoenix birds that stand on the site of the former Camden incinerator to represent Camden rising from the ashes of illegal dumping and looking towards a bright future for the city.

This installation includes two site specific sculptures that were built in Boston at Save That Stuff Warehouse. Once installed, the Myth Makers added two long tails to the Phoenix sculptures that create a path to the amphitheater at the back of the site. The Myth Makers collaborated with the Dudley School to invite all 500 students to paint and decorate the flags that fly high above the Phoenix Festival. The space inside the installation is filled with benches that were designed by the Myth Makers. Donna & Andy had a vision to include the voices of Camden youth in their project. They partnered with the Kipp Norcross High School students and the Mighty Writers of Camden to collect short poems and reflections. Their words are transcribed onto the benches.

The Myth Makers are known for creating Avian Avatars, or bird headed mythological figures that celebrate community heroes. For the Phoenix Festival, Dodson & Moerlein chose to honor Rodney Sadler and Nilsa Cruz-Perez for the work they have done to clean up Camden’s waterfront and to strive for environmental justice with the people who live in the city. The installation was made possible by the support from The Camden DPW, Subaru Artist Apprentices, Camden-Rutgers Center for the Arts, Dudley School, Mighty Writers, Kipp Norcross High School, Cooper’s Ferry Partnerships, and the Bloomberg Foundation. The Phoenix Festival is located near the historic Federal St Bridge at 1401 Federal St. We hope you will visit, add your local heroes and inspirations to the community bulletin boards, and be part of the positive changes that are happening in the City of Camden. The Phoenix Festival asks visitors and residents alike to put an end to illegal dumping by working together to clean up empty lots, like 1401 FEDERAL St, continuing the work of local environmental justice heroes in the community and activating these public spaces with music, dance, poetry, picnics and family gatherings, and enjoying these public art experiences of A New View Camden.

Press links:

6abc -

Burlington County Times -

Broad Street Review -

Chestnut Post -

City Pulse -

Courier Post Online -

Courier Post Online -

Courier Post Online -

Dosage Magazine -

Fox29 -

Go Green Podcast -

KYW1060 -

NBC10 -

New Jersey 101.5 -

NJ Pen - -

Philadelphia Inquirer -

Philadelphia Inquirer -

Philadelphia Inquirer -

Philadelphia RowHome Magazine -

Philly Metro -

PHL17 -

South Jersey 104.9 FM - -

Theatre in the Round Podcast -