Source: Duluth News Tribute (Extract)
Posted: November 25, 2023

VIRGINIA and DULUTH — Statues serve many different purposes. One such purpose is to help those visiting them recall the past and memorialize those who have come before.

The Northland is home to many statues that serve as memorials for veterans, noteworthy people and even fictional characters. Today, let’s look into two statues that serve as memorials: one to a beloved animal and another to an industry that moved on.

Great Catsby honors beloved cat

Duluth-based artist Ann Klefstad notes that memorialization has been a main motivation for artists for centuries.

“In the West, anyway, that’s one of the origins of sculpture,” Klefstad said. “Memorializing the beloved dead is kind of what sculptors have done for hundreds of years, and it’s only fairly recently that we’ve sort of moved away from that.”

Klefstad is the artist who created a memorial to The Great Catsby, a cat with wanderlust who lived in a home in the Lakeside neighborhood. Catsby was a favorite visitor to Duluth East High School and the Ecumen Lakeshore senior living center. But the gray and white cat died when it was hit by a car in 2016. East visual arts teacher Deb Hannu approached Klefstad about creating a memorial for Catsby later that year after a student-led effort started raising funds for the project.

“They did a bunch of fundraising, from a fun run to T-shirts, and they were able to raise enough money to cover the cost of doing the piece,” Klefstad said. “It was such an outpouring of neighborhood love.”

A neighbor who does dirt work in the community donated a rock to serve as the statue’s base, and it was unveiled in 2017 at a community gathering. The base includes an explanation of Catsby and a QR code that takes visitors to a website with more of his story and several memories shared by those who knew him.

It was not the first time Klefstad had been asked to create a statue in memory of an animal. After the 2012 flood, she was commissioned by the Lake Superior Zoo to create a sheep and goat statue to honor the animals lost in the waters.

“It’s a very collaborative process,” Klefstad said. “I ask for a lot of photos and listen to the people who loved these critters and do my best.”

Over the years, Catsby has become a favorite for people to dress up with hats, sweaters, scarves and ribbons. Klefstad said she appreciates it when she sees him dressed up.

“I hope that continues, and nobody frowns on it because I think it’s so cool,” Klefstad said.