Show features the artful dog

The bond between man and his best friend will be on display tonight and throughout the month of March at the 25th annual Art Show at the Dog Show.

"This is the only exhibit solely dedicated to man's best friend," said Angela Cato, marketing director for the city of Wichita's Arts and Cultural Services division. "All breeds are represented. That's why it receives so much attention.

"When you're looking at the pieces of art, you see the connection between the artist and their subject matter. There's TLC packaged in every piece of art."

The juried show features canine art in multiple media. Artists compete for awards in eight categories — oil and acrylic, water colors, sculpture, photography, drawings, pastels, prints and mixed media. Two jurors select four prize winners in each category. This year's jurors are Marla Rush Parnell of Springfield, Mo., and David Smith of Grand Junction, Tenn. Parnell was last year's best-in-show winner. Smith is executive director of the National Bird Dog Museum in Grand Junction.

Organizers of the show say it is one of the most popular annual exhibits in the city.

"Everyone likes dogs," said organizer Pat Deshler of the Wichita Kennel Club. "It's an opportunity to see them at their best."

Deshler has been involved with the art show since its inception in 1986. Originally started as part of a celebration for the Wichita Kennel Club's 50th anniversary, the event has since become nationally and internationally celebrated. Deshler says dog lovers from all over the region come to admire the art. Past shows have seen entries from all over the world.

So many artists submit works that the exhibit is too big for just one gallery; it's held at CityArts as well as the main hallways of Century II. This year, more than 200 artists from across the country submitted more than 500 works. About 200 were chosen for the show.

Works run the gamut of emotions and experience.

In "Martini Poodle," V'Lou Oliveira of Norman, Okla., shows a puffy pink poodle sipping on a martini. Elizabeth Corbett of Iola captures the comfort pets provide in a black-and-white drawing, "Seeking Solace," as a dog stares from the canvas with conciliatory eyes.

"Puppy Buddies" by Louise Lopina of San Clemente, Calif., is a painting of two pugs that captures the sweetness and camaraderie often seen between dogs. In her watercolor "Lila and Mugsy," Monica Acee of Deansboro, N.Y., illustrates the pride and prominence pets have in a family setting.

"This show really is the top tier of canine art," Cato said. "It's amazing the level of talent that the artists and the show represent. On some of the paintings, you can almost see the hairs on the dog's heads."

Wichita is fortunate to have such a high-caliber show, she said.

"It attracts everyone, really. The show is for dog lovers — and we have lots of those — but it also attracts art lovers because this is a very high-end art show."

If you go

art show at the dog show

What: More than 200 works of art depicting dogs.

Where: CityArts, 334 N. Mead, and Century II, 225 W. Douglas

When: Opening reception 10 a.m.-8 p.m. today at CityArts. Works on display at both venues through April 6.

How much: Admission is free. Most works are for sale.

For more information, including 2011 winners and images of many of the works, visit http://artshowatthedogshow.com/