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Metallic cat sculpture that spent time at Burning Man finds a forever home in Sylva

<i>WLOS</i><br/>A cat sculpture created across the country now has a forever home in Western North Carolina.
A cat sculpture created across the country now has a forever home in Western North Carolina.

By Rex Hodge

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    SYLVA, North Carolina (WLOS) — A cat sculpture created across the country now has a forever home in Western North Carolina. The giant, metallic cat, made a journey to one of our mountain communities, and carries with it, an inspiring message.

To say Paige Tashner loves cats is an understatement. The California-based artist has many real ones, and they were the inspiration for her Purr Pods creation of three feline sculptures made of steel rings.

“Those are my first sculptures that I ever did. So, I had to learn how to weld pretty quick,” Tashner said.

The sculptures were a big hit at the Burning Man arts festival held annually in Nevada.

“I have people that have left me gifts at my campsite this year because they were such big fans,” Tashner said.

She named each of the three creations after three of her late cats — one of them named Scooby-Doo after the cartoon dog.

Scooby now sits in Jackson County in the care of Harold Sims, who runs the Catman2 no-kill shelter in Cullowhee. Sims is also curator of the American Museum of the House Cat near Dillsboro.

“He reached out to me,” Tashner said.

Sims was looking for donations of cat artwork.

“I started researching the Catman2 shelter. And, everything that he does for animals, like with the museum, raising money to support the shelter and the low-cost spay and neutering, I’m all about that,” Tashner said.

You can find everything “cat” in Sims’ museum. The collection is music to his heart.

“Art glass here from France and England and Germany, wind-up cats and games here, this is the carousel we built inside the museum,” Sims said.

The museum is closed for now because of pandemic challenges, including staffing issues. But there’s hope for a reopening in the spring.

To get more people to see Scooby-Doo, Sims is permanently donating the sculpture, which is at the shelter right now, to the town of Sylva.

“I’d rather have it there than have it out in the middle of nowhere,” Sims said.

Tashner is all in, wanting to see public interaction with her big cat.

“It brings them happiness, and they remember their pets and become a little more aware, especially with what Harold is doing,” she said.

Sims figures the more people who see Scooby-Doo, the more they’ll be enticed to visit the cat museum, when it reopens, and raise money to help find cats forever homes.

“They really have a hard time getting a home without people like me and those who care about what we’re doing, you know. It’s our life you might say,” Sims said.

The sculpture is set to be placed in Sylva’s Bridge Park within a few weeks, despite one section of the park not allowing dogs. That’s a moot point since this Scooby is a cat.

“Yeah, it’s a character,” Sims said with a laugh.

The sculpture is consistent with the town’s commitment to public art.

“This is our center of town. This is where we have our festivals, and we want to show this off,” Sylva commissioner Ben Guiney said.

It’s a piece of art with a whimsical flare and, at the same time, a lesson about the importance of our feline friends.

“Especially through the pandemic, we really leaned into our animals for comfort,” Tashner said.

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