Minnesota's International Owl Center opens up fourth online auction to raise money for Ukrainian children

On June 22, the owl center opened up an online auction selling art sent into the center by Ukrainian children as a part of an international art content; the money raised will be donated to children and families in Ukraine through UNICEF.

Ukrainian Art 3
Young artist in Ukraine poses with picture sent in to International Owl Center for an art contest.
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HOUSTON, Minn. — The International Owl Center launched round four of its Ukrainian art auctions on Wednesday, June 22, 2022.

This auction will run until June 26 and is a continuation of the Owl Center’s past auctions, which have raised a total of about $225,000 for the UNICEF. Through UNICEF, the money raised will go towards providing aid for the children of Ukraine.

“We never intended the contest to be what it turned out to be,” Karla Bloem, the executive director of the International Owl Center, said.

The International Owl Centers has ties to Ukraine through its international children’s owl art contest. Started in 2004, the international owl art contest began as a coloring contest aimed at getting young people interested and involved in the Festival of Owls.

Over the years, the art contest has grown to receive over 2,000 entries each year from a variety of international countries.


Due to the volume of entries, there would be no way to send all of the artwork entered in the competition back to the children because of shipping costs, and the time it would take for the center’s staff, Bloem said. The center decided to make a term of the contest that the applications would consent for their art to become the property of the center and could be used for future fundraising or advertising.

“We’ve got thousands of pieces of art in storage, and they’re not doing anybody any good sitting in storage,” Bloem said. “This just feels like a really good way to get the artwork of these amazing kids seen by more people and appreciated.”

The team that gets the art auctions up and running usually consists of two or three Owl Center staff and two other volunteers, Bloem said.

Taking pictures of the artwork, resizing and renaming the pictures, importing them into Dropbox and the software and getting the payment systems set up is all background work needed to put the art up for online auction.

“Jane Overstreet does that as a volunteer for us, which is magnificent,” Bloem said. “She's in Northfield, so it's not even close by. She literally drives over here to take all the pictures.”


According to Bloem, there are 50 pieces of original artwork and four of the pieces have been made into prints with 25 copies of each available. Bloem said something new with this auction is some of the pieces have a link to the picture of the artist.

“The extra special thing this year is (for) some of the Ukrainian ones, we have pictures of the artists with their artwork,” Bloem said. “You can purchase one that really speaks to you and frame it and have it hanging in your house and then feel a connection to that artist.”

As of Wednesday, June 23, the highest bids at the auction are sitting at $425 and $1,000 with three more days left in the bidding process.

“I think many people who’ve been a part of these (auctions) before are now waiting towards the end to bid so that it doesn’t escalate quite as fast, quite as early,” Bloem said. “There’s a lot of bidding that goes on right before it closes, but right now, this one has started very slow compared to the other ones.”

After the auction closes, volunteers will work on organizing the pieces and shipping them to the buyers.

Ukraine Owl Art 1
Owl picture painted by 10-year-old Liliia up for auction from June 22 to June 26.

“The huge chunk of work comes when the auction closes and then we have to ship everything,” Bloem said. “Oh my gosh, that’s a lot of work.”

People will be able to access the auction online at up until June 26 and are able to donate to UNICEF through the auction page without bidding on art.

The International Owl Art Center has the goal of raising their current total of funds raised from $225,000 to $400,000.


According to UNICEF’s website, the organization is working with its partners in Ukraine “to reach vulnerable children and families with essential services – including health, education, protection, water and sanitation – as well as life-saving supplies.”

Bella Carpentier is a journalism and political science student at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (UMN-TC). She is currently the managing editor of the student-run paper at UMN-TC, the Minnesota Daily. While reporting for the Minnesota Daily, she covered student activism and issues affecting the university's student body. Working for the Post Bulletin, Bella hopes to build community connections and advance her reporting skills. Readers can reach Bella at
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