Siege of herons: Public art project will put 20 colorful birds around Okaloosa County

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log
Here's a look at the heron that make up the Emerald Coast Heron Project soon to be revealed.

Pensacola has its Pelicans in Paradise. Cherokee, North Carolina, has the Bears Project. But Okaloosa County is about to get a siege of herons as part of the Emerald Coast Heron Project, a brainchild of the Okaloosa Public Arts. 

“Our goal is to put art in public spaces,” said Toni Dineen, secretary of the OPA.

And very soon, 20 5-foot herons made of fiberglass and painted by local artists will be placed around Okaloosa County, with five being stationed in Destin. 

Okaloosa Public Arts is a 501C-3 that gets its money from bingo. 

“During COVID, we ended up having a lot of money because we were not having art shows. We had all these funds ... let’s do something for the public,” she said. 

Becky Brice-Nash drops off her heron to be clear coated.

More:New banners go up on Main Street in Destin

So, they purchased 20 fiberglass herons and had a contest with local artists sending in their designs. 

The result is “20 beautiful 5-foot birds that are currently at the marine contractor,” she said.  

Each fiberglass heron weighs about 60 pounds.

Dineen said they picked the heron because they “wanted something that was symbolic throughout Okaloosa County.” 

The blue heron can be found in the inland rivers, lakes and beaches. It can also be seen while hiking the Florida Trail, fishing on the bridges or piers, sunning on the beach, boating in the bays and kayaking on the local rivers.  

More:Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation awards $10,000 to 29 artists at Festival of the Arts

“She can be found throughout the area in both summer and winter. She is a beautiful piece of art in nature we hope to preserve through our public arts,” Dineen said. 

Toni Dineen stands with her heron "Amazing Grace." This heron will be placed at the Air Force Armament Museum.

Each heron weighs approximately 60 pounds and was produced by Icon Poly in fiberglass molds. The cost is roughly $1,000 for each heron. Once painted, clear coated and installed, they are roughly $1,500 each, Dineen said.  

Each bird received three coats of marine coating and will be placed around the county.  

“They will be there to promote the local artist” as well as the location, she said. There will be a QR code on each statue that when scanned will provide information about the artists as well as where the next closest heron is located. 

Bernadette Sims poses for a photo with her heron tagged "Belle" which will eventually be placed at Shalimar Town Hall.

“But it’s all about putting art in public spaces and promoting local artists,” Dineen said, who helped to paint three of the birds herself. 

On Jan. 30 all of the herons will be moved to the Okaloosa County Administration Building lobby in Shalimar and on Feb. 1 at 5 p.m. the public is invited to a big “reveal reception” of the siege. This will be the only time all 20 herons will be in the same location. 

The Emerald Coast Heron Project is soon to be revealed around Okaloosa County.

Each heron, uniquely painted, will be placed in five areas around Destin. There will be one at Clement Taylor Park, HarborWalk Village, Destin Commons, Mattie Kelly Cultural Arts Village and Holiday Isle. 

Some of the other places around the county you can expect to find one will be at the Fort Walton Beach Library, the Air Force Armament Museum, Niceville Senior Center, Emerald Coast Science Center, Destin-Fort Walton Beach Convention Center and Shalimar Town Hall. 

Rick Otoupalik poses with his heron tagged "Jail Bird." This heron will be placed at the Fort Walton Beach Police Department.

“Everybody is so excited about it, I think we’ll do it again,” Dineen said. 

The herons that will soon be placed around the county will “stay forever … they are a donation,” she said.