The special bond between people and their pets is on full display downtown. Canine art is coloring the walls of CityArts and the hallways of Century II Concert Hall’s Foyer Gallery for the 27th annual Art Show at the Dog Show. It’s an extensive multi-media exhibit that brings in artists from across the country while uniquely positioning Wichita as a destination for canines on canvasses.
“It’s an opportunity for artists who work in all media and whose subjects are canine to have a show that is exclusively dedicated to that art form,” show chairwoman Pat Deshler said. “Everything must include a canine. We are pretty unique in that there are lots of competitive art shows, but this one is solely focused on dogs. Artists enter to compete for prize money and to be recognized for the quality of their work.”
The juried show is a preview of sorts for the Sunflower Cluster Dog Show that will be April 5 through 8 at the Kansas Pavilions in Valley Center. It’s organized and sponsored by the Wichita Kennel Club, the Hutchinson Kennel Club, the Salina Kennel Club and the Wichita Dog Training Club. Since the show’s inception, it’s become a marquee event for artists whose subject matter is dogs, Deshler said.
More than 100 artists submitted works this year, with around 80 being invited to show. Many of those selected are local, but many are from out of state. Drawings, prints, paintings, pastels, photographs, sculptures and other media will showcase the animated, lively and unique nature of a diverse set of breeds.
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An extensive sampling is represented. Brenda Harlan of Beggs, Okla., has a portrait of a happy white bearded collie. R. Mike Nichols of Riverside, Calif., has a quilt depicting a stout-looking English pit bull. Marcia Gay of Defiance, Mo., photographs eager beagles running alongside horses. Sondra Alexander, from Towanda, has a glass piece of a somber basset hound.
Prizes are awarded by medium category. Top winners have the opportunity to gift their work to the American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog in St. Louis. This year, the show’s jurors include Linda Budge, a painter from Cave Creek, Ariz., who has won the “best in show” award in the past, and Jay Nelson, director and owner of the Strecker-Nelson Gallery in Manhattan.
Deshler said she’s been told the exhibit is among the city’s most popular annual art events. She also said its distinction as one of the only art shows solely dedicated to canine art makes the city stand out.
“Our friends who are judges and who travel a lot showing dogs around the country say that when someone says ‘Wichita,’ people immediately think of this show. They say, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s where the Art Show at the Dog Show is.’ It’s interesting in that our show has outlasted so many of the others.”
All works in this year’s show are original, new pieces. The exhibit debuted this week and will be on display at CityArts and the Foyer Gallery of Century II through April 2. All pieces then will move to the dog show at the Kansas Pavilions and will be on display through the event.
“My favorite time is when we combine all of the pieces and they’re all out at the dog show,” Deshler said. “We always feature our ‘best in show’ piece right out in the center so that everyone sees it as they walk into our gallery. I’ve literally seen people standing in the aisle and cry. They are really touched by what we have.”
People will have a chance to mingle with their favorite canines, in person and on canvas, Sunday afternoon at a “Meet the Breeds” event at Century II. Twenty to 25 different breeds of dogs will be on hand as visitors peruse the art on display.
“The public can come and see if you’d like to have one of those breeds of dogs,” Deshler said. “It’s an opportunity to come and meet the live ones and also see some great dog art. People just love dogs. There are a lot of humorous things about them. They catch people’s souls.”