Just before Christmas, Laughlin Children’s Center welcomed a new friend: a three-foot tall penguin made of cement and fiberglass and covered with fantastical animals. The statue is a gift from Oliver and Mary Kay Poppenberg of Sewickley, given in honor of their daughter, Kate Poppenberg Pigman. Pigman served four terms as the President of the Center’s Board of Directors as well as chairman of its Board of Trustees from 2009 to 2015.
The penguin was created by local artist Laura Jean McLaughlin as part of the 2002 “Penguins on Parade” fundraiser sponsored by Sweetwater Center for the Arts. The Poppenbergs placed the winning bid on the penguin, which McLaughlin titled, “Green Gals on Two-Headed Elephants.” After more than a decade of the penguin greeting guests at their home, the couple decided it was time for the public to enjoy the fanciful figure.
“Ollie and I are so thrilled about his grand reception at the Center,” Mary Kay Poppenberg stated. “He has brought lots of smiles and good thoughts to our family and friends, and we are very happy to give him a new home at Laughlin Children’s Center. I am especially pleased that the artist’s statement matches up so well with the spirit of LCC. And we’re even more pleased that this gift is in honor of Kate’s board service for so many years.”
According to the artist’s notes, McLaughlin “looked at the form of the penguin and allowed images of people and creatures to flow out, while never second-guessing” what she painted. “Green people represent all races and genders. The animal forms are metaphors for various hierarchical structures that… carry us and form our immediate perception of the way we see things good and bad,” McLaughlin explained. According to her website, the artist has work in the collection of the City of Pittsburgh, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, and the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Along with a new home, the penguin will also be getting a new name. “While ‘Green Gals on Two-Headed Elephants’ is certainly descriptive, it doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue,” Laughlin executive director Douglas Florey shared. “We are so grateful to the Poppenbergs for this generous addition to the Center,” Florey continued. “It’s the perfect tribute to Kate’s many years of dedicated service, and is already well-loved by our clients—which is why it needs a more kid-friendly name.”
The Center will be collecting suggestions on what to call the penguin throughout the coming months and will announce the new name via its Facebook page on April 25th, World Penguin Awareness Day. Those interested in making suggestions should “like” the Laughlin Children’s Center Facebook page and comment on the Name the Penguin post, pinned to the top of the feed.