These days, in addition to admiring the impressive architecture of the Hancock County Courthouse, visitors to downtown Findlay, Ohio are guaranteed to see stars.

Yes, it’s true. While curiously colored moose are roaming the streets of Bennington, VT, the sidewalks of downtown Findlay, OH have been invaded by a wild, wandering herd of…stars. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, a roaming pack of untamed stars has descended upon this quiet corner of northwest Ohio.

Why stars, you might ask? Well, I wondered the same thing. It’s not like Ohio is remotely near the Lone Star State (although so many reminders of his Texas home might make Gary feel right at home in Findlay). Most of the examples of so-called curb art I’ve previously heard of have been animals, like the painted pigs that inspired those Bennington moose or the art cows that roamed the streets of both Chicago and Houston.

In Ohio, at least, folks have gotten creative (or desperate) in their search for new approaches to the increasingly trendy idea of seeking corporate sponsorship for colorful fiberglass statues riffing on a given theme. Several years ago, for instance, Toledo weathered an invasion of six-foot-tall painted frogs. Not to be left out, my own hometown of Columbus apparently featured curb corn, as if its reputation as a Midwestern backwater weren’t established strongly enough.

Given Findlay’s status as Flag City, USA, I guess art stars make as much sense as anything, given that statues of stars and stripes might have been a bit difficult to pull off. And although a lot of the stars in Findlay these days are painted in patriotic colors, there’s enough variety in color and design to make looking for stars an interesting afternoon pastime. Walking Findlay streets these days, you’ll see patriotic stars in red, white, and blue celebrating Main Street, USA…

Lady Liberty…

and the all-American pastime of sittin’ a spell on a downtown bench.

Some of the stars are remarkable because of their backdrops. When is the last time, for example, you’ve seen much less been in that staple of old-time, small-town America, a Ben Franklin five-and-dime?

Or what screams “Americana” more loudly than an art star dedicated to the automobile, stationed across a wide Main Street from two parked cars?

Although I initially was a bit skeptical about Findlay’s Star Gazing project, I eventually did get swept up in the spirit of star-spotting. True, painted stars lack the quaint charm of lifesize painted moose…but if fiberglass statues can encourage folks to stroll downtown streets and look around a bit, that has to be a good thing. Who knows what new things you’ll discover if you simply start looking.

It wasn’t until I started collecting these pictures of the art stars of Findlay, for instance, that I realized how seldom I look at a city from a knee-high perspective. Yes, life-size painted moose are cool…if you’re a grown-up looking the creatures straight in the eye. But a young’un walking the streets of Bennington, VT is going to see a lot of painted hooves and kneecaps…unless, of course, a strong-shouldered parent gives them a lift.

At least the art stars of Findlay have this much going for them: they exist at a child’s eye level, easily viewed (and touched) by toddlers and kids in strollers. Come to think of it, the thought of decorating a street with art at kids’-eye level is a novel idea since most museums hang paintings to be viewed by grown-ups, and statues are almost always life-size, at least.

Star-gazing on the streets of Findlay is a child-like activity, as is walking any Main Street with a camera. Suddenly you’re stopping and investigating instead of focusing continually on your oh-so-important destination. Suddenly you’re stopping and crouching, or even crawling, trying to find just the right angle or perspective on something that other “more mature” folks are rushing by, oblivious. We grown-ups occasionally talk about a home’s “curb appeal”–the way it looks when viewed from the street–but when’s the last time you checked out your hometown’s literal curb appeal: the way Main Street looks if you’re sitting or crouching on the curb?

At the end of a street-strolling day, though, my favorite star is the one fancifully dedicated to my now-favorite mythical creature, the Staardvark.