SU’s La Casita Cultural Center Project, CFAC, VPA raise awareness about canine abuse through ‘Vicktory Dogs’ exhibition
SU’s La Casita Cultural Center Project, CFAC, VPA raise awareness about canine abuse through ‘Vicktory Dogs’ exhibitionMay 06, 2009Rob Enslinrmenslin@syr.edu
Pit bulls victimized in the notorious dog-fighting ring of former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick are the subject of an upcoming art exhibition at Syracuse University. The exhibition, “The Vicktory Dogs Paintings,” runs May 13-June 30 at The Link Gallery, located in the Community Art Wing on the ground floor of The Warehouse, 350 W. Fayette St.
The exhibition is free and open to the public. Gallery hours are Tuesday-Saturday, noon-6 p.m. The public is invited to the gallery for an opening reception, Wednesday, May 13, at 6 p.m.
“Vicktory Dogs” is sponsored by SU’s new La Casita Cultural Center, in cooperation with the Community Folk Art Center (CFAC), the College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) Office of Community Outreach and Artist Support, and the Culture & Animals Foundation. For more information about the exhibition, call VPA at (315) 443-8781. For artist information, call CFAC curator Gina Stankivitz at (315) 442-2230.
“Vicktory Dogs” is the brainchild of Cyrus Mejia, who, along with his wife and a group of animal lovers, founded Best Friends Animal Society, the nation’s largest sanctuary for abused and abandoned animals. The exhibition features giclee prints of 22 dogs rescued by Best Friends after Vick’s indictment. “They were dogs who no one-not even colleagues in the animal welfare industry-thought could ever function again in society,” says the Utah-based painter. “Best Friends was virtually alone in the call to give these dogs a chance at new life.”
Mejia says that rehabilitation has been slow but steady, thanks to a talented team of trainers and caregivers. By depicting the dogs up close in his painting, Mejia hopes people will confront their own prejudices about pit bulls in general and will think twice about exploiting them or fearing them, or both. “Humans are the ones who use violence and torture to make these dogs the symbol of their own aggression,” says Mejia, adding that pit bulls and other so-called “bully breeds” account for a large percentage of animals destroyed on a daily basis in shelters. “‘Vicktory Dogs’ are poster children for this minority of dogs who, themselves, are victims.”
Stankivitz is especially excited about the exhibition. “Cyrus is what I would call a ‘soulful’ painter. The way he creates harmony out of chaos and depicts the circle of life, especially between animals and humans, is deeply moving.”
Born into a cross-cultural family in New Orleans, Mejia studied painting, drawing and ceramics at Hinds Community College in Mississippi before going abroad for several years. A chance encounter with dogs caged in a London research laboratory turned his sights in a new direction. “I was so shocked and moved by what I saw that I had no choice but to try to help animals any way that I could,” he says.
Mejia founded Best Friends in 1984, while nurturing a career in art. His work is featured in dozens of museums and galleries around the country, including CFAC, which is presenting a companion series to “Vicktory Dogs” titled “Pits and Perceptions” in summer 2010, with Mejia in attendance on opening night. Local residents will get a taste of “Pits and Perceptions” this summer through the Urban Video Project, an SU Connective Corridor initiative featuring large-scale outdoor projections of 12 of his paintings. Dates and locations are TBA. More information about Mejia is available at http://cyrusmejia.com/.
La Casita Cultural Center is one of 19 new Chancellor’s Leadership Projects that exemplify the University vision of Scholarship in Action. The center seeks to establish a physical gathering place on Syracuse’s Near Westside to foster multimodal, multigenerational campus-community conversations and to serve as an intellectual and artistic bridge linking various communities, including Latino populations across and beyond Syracuse. The project, whose board of advisors includes faculty, students and administrators from schools and colleges across the University, will work in partnership with a variety of community organizations and with institutional support from the Near Westside Initiative.
CFAC is a vibrant cultural and artistic hub committed to the promotion and development of artists of the African Diaspora. The mission of the center is to exalt cultural and artistic pluralism by collecting, exhibiting, teaching and interpreting the visual and expressive arts. Public programming includes exhibitions, film screenings, gallery talks, workshops and courses in the studio arts, including dance and ceramics. A unit of SU’s Department of African American Studies, CFAC is a beacon of artistry, creativity and cultural expression engaging the community, region and world. More information is available at http://www.communityfolkartcenter.org/index.htm.
VPA’s Warehouse Community Art Wing is a space of engagement, forging meaningful interactions among students, faculty and staff members, and the campus community. The intention is to share University space and resources with the public to nurture creativity, to strengthen university-community ties, and to revitalize downtown Syracuse. The Community Art Wing also provides resources for artist support and development.
VPA is committed to the education of cultural leaders who will engage and inspire audiences through performance, visual art, design, scholarship, and commentary. We provide the tools for self-discovery and risk-taking in an environment that thrives on critical thought and action. Learn more at http://vpa.syr.edu.