Heights Arts's Pet Project supports animal welfare

Chagrin Falls artist Maggy Brown, with her Pet Project sample portrait in cut-paper collage.

Starting this fall, art is going to the dogs—as well as cats, rabbits, and possibly even guinea pigs—as Heights Arts launches Pet Project, an ongoing custom-portraiture program in which pet owners and adopters can provide a photograph of their pet and choose a participating artist to create an original, personal portrait of their animal. A percentage of the portrait fee goes directly to Northeast Ohio animal welfare organizations.

The idea for Pet Project originated with the community arts organization's executive director, Rachel Bernstein. "My passion for the arts and my passion for causes that promote the humane treatment of animals collided in my brain and out popped the idea of Pet Project!" she said. "My hope is that this project will cross-pollinate awareness between the two causes: to make art accessible to those who might not otherwise have considered it, and also benefit the community of animals and animal lovers in a creative way."

Pet owners may commission portraits of their furry family members in an array of sizes, from 4" x 6" to 12" x 16", and in a variety of media ranging from cut-paper collage to drawing, painting, and transferware on plates. The majority of the portrait fee goes directly to the artist, with Heights Arts donating a portion of its commission to participating animal welfare organiza­tions, including Friends of the Cleveland Kennel, Geauga Humane Society Rescue Village, One Health Organization, Waterloo Alley Cat Project, and the Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter. Each commissioned portrait takes about six to eight weeks to complete.

Participating artists in 2016–17 include Maggy Brown, cut-paper collage; Lindsey Bryan, watercolor and graphite pencil; Kristen Cliffel, image transfer on ceramic plate; Carolyn Merklein, painting; Jessica Miroglotta, drawing; Sunila Paul, charcoal and watercolor; and Danielle Rueger, digital illustration. “This work is a celebration of the intimate bond that humans and animals have developed over the centuries. Friendship and love know no boundaries in the realm of the inter-species bond," said Cliffel.

Pet Project has been in the works for months: while artists created sample portraits to illustrate their creative portraiture styles, program organizers recruited animal shelters and health organizations throughout Cleveland, and set up collaborations with sponsoring organizations, such as Camp Bow Wow in Highland Heights. The initial launch of the ongoing community program was made possible by funding from the Jean, Harry and Brenda Fuchs Family Foundation.

The public can view samples of portraits by participating Pet Project artists in the Heights Arts gallery at 2175 Lee Road, and online at www.heightsarts.org.  Information is also available at participating animal welfare organizations and local veterinarian offices throughout the Cleveland area.

For more information on Pet Project and other public programs and community events, visit www.heightsarts.org or call 216-371-3457.

Mary Ryan

Mary Ryan is on staff at Heights Arts, a nonprofit community arts organization.

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Volume 9, Issue 10, Posted 2:46 PM, 09.30.2016