Houston, we have dogs and cats, lots of them.
February, most often associated with Valentine’s Day, also is “World Spay Month.” And to tie in the message of education with the month of love, Houston City Council member Karla Cisneros has spearheaded the “Love Your Pet Month” initiative, targeting Houston and Harris County, and she’s leaning on the arts community to help.
I first met our District H council member at my art market when she was designing and selling her unique seashell jewelry. So inviting the creatives in our community to help is no surprise, because she’s one of them.
Artist April Murphy, known for her colorful paintings depicting our favorite animals doing all things human, jumped at the chance to help. Murphy painted “Pitty Kitty Love,” a painting of a cat nuzzling the neck of a dog, for the event promotions. Cisneros purchased the painting and it now hangs in her office.
“Love Your Pet Month” has many activities scheduled, including this weekend when Cisneros and crew will be at Sawyer Yards. I had a chance to ask both Cisneros and Murphy what inspires them and just what to look for.
“The goal of ‘Love Your Pet’ is to fight the overpopulation of animals on our streets by bringing awareness and opportunities to spay or neuter dogs and cats so that they are not giving birth to unwanted litters,” Cisneros said. “The entire month of February is packed with events to help educate the public about the importance of spay/neuter and about no-cost opportunities for spay/neuter surgeries.”
AV: What drew you to the art scene for help?
KC: “I am grateful to all the artists who have so enthusiastically embraced this initiative. Artists are great communicators and are able to reach people and move people in powerful ways. Poets, painters, photographers, graphic designers, art teachers and art activists have all lent their talent to help spread the word.
“Thanks to many of our art partners, ‘Love Your Pet’ will have a big presence at the Sawyer Yards Open Studios on Feb. 9. Please look for us there at The Market at Sawyer Yards and at Sabine Studios.”
Painting animals with an emphasis on our favorites, dogs and cats, it is not surprising that Murphy gets many requests from charities for help.
AV: Why are pets and animals your primary subjects?
AM: “Animals melt my heart … they are a huge passion. I’ve played around with other subject matter in an effort to better fit into the art scene but I have learned that I need to paint what fills me up for my work to feel authentic to me and for my audience. That emotion oozes out of the canvas when you just follow your muse and just do you.”
AV: Do you get a lot of requests for help? Do projects like “Love Your Pet Month” inspire you?
AM: “It’s true, I get requests almost daily and I can’t possibly do them all. But I try to do what I can to give back, especially locally. This town has been very good to me and given me many opportunities that have propelled my art career forward. Turning that around to others feels right. I’ve always got my ear to the ground as far as charitable endeavors go and Love Your Pet/Big Fix Houston totally resonated with me.”
AV: What rang true to you about this one?
AM: “We have a huge homeless pet problem here in Houston. Our rescue groups and shelters are overburdened trying to keep up. I’m blown away by the commitment from those in the trenches trying to save them all. If there is ever to be relief, it has to start with education and responsible pet ownership. And that’s what Love Your Pet Month and Big Fix Houston are all about. I’m all in!”
Find the “Love Your Pet Month” booth among the artist exhibitors of the Market at Sawyer Yards behind the Silos. Next to them, Murphy will host a selfie booth and contest. Check in on Instagram or Facebook to The Market at Sawyer Yards and use the hashtags #bestscarymovieface and #loveyourpet in front of her giant painting titled “Muttinet at the Mewvies,” showing a movie theater audience of dogs and cats watching a scary movie. The best selfie photo wins a large print of the painting.
April Murphy’s (@aemgallery) AEM Gallery will be open Saturday. Find her in Studio 3B in Winter Street Studios – down the alley right across from where the murals end.
More information about this and other Love Your Pet events and spay/neuter opportunities is available at www.houstontx.gov/loveyourpet. The Market at Sawyer Yards is located by Winter Street Studios, 2101 Winter St., and open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday.
The BARC Adoptions Trailer will be at Sabine Street Studios, 1907 Sabine St., from noon-4 p.m. Saturday, funded by Cisneros. Don’t be surprised if you end up falling in love and bringing home a new pet, just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Cohen is an artist and founder of First Saturday Arts Market and the Market at Sawyer Yards. Find him at ArtValet.com.