A pair of sweet and gentile copper-colored dog eyes greet visitors as they step through the doors of Saint Louis University Museum of Art and enter the gallery space of the “Urban Wanderers” exhibition. As patrons approach these larger-than-life eyes printed on a wall maimed with bullet holes, it becomes clear that the animal they belong to has seen more than most human beings can fathom.
Imagine being shot 12 times, strangled with an electrical wire, abandoned in a dumpster and left to die. Such was the fate of this exhibition’s “spokes-pup,” O.P., when he was found in an alley in North St. Louis by Stray Rescue of St. Louis in the fall of 2012. After multiple surgeries, O.P. reclaimed life, but not without the cost of the mobility of his hind legs. With the creation of a customized cart, O.P regained movement and a new life full of inspiration and love.
Thanks to Stray Rescue, O.P. found love and care in the home of the founder of Stray Rescue, Randy Grim. O.P’s incredible story of hope and resiliency made him the perfect choice to be th
e sole representative of this year’s “Urban Wanderers” exhibition, with the theme “The Plight of the Street Dog.”
Besides representing the theme of the exhibit as the “face” of “Ur
ban Wanderers,” O.P. received an exclusive invitation to the opening reception held Friday, March 22 at SLUMA. Mary Marshall, marketing coordinator at SLUMA, described the pup’s dynamic presence at the reception and said he was “wheeling around like the happiest guy in town.” O.P. is living proof of the turnaround possible for animals saved by the dedicated and passionate members of the Stray Rescue team.
The organization, founded by Grim, rescues and shelters dogs from the horrific conditions of the most dangerous St. Louis streets and gives them a second chance at life through adoption.
In its fourth year of partnership with Stray Rescue, SLUMA’s exhibition, “Urban Wanderers” consists of over 175 works of art. All displayed pieces are available for online auction in which 100 percent of proceeds will be donated to Stray Rescue of St. Louis in support of the continuation of their work.
“Urban Wanderers” splits the sprawling gallery space of SLUMA into two parts: the west side, containing what the exhibit refers to as dog “arf,” and the east side, housing the collection of human, or “two-legged,” art.
Similar to finger-painting, dog “arf” includes colorful paintings of dog paw, tail, and even nose prints creatively rendered to appear as professional works of art. These pieces not only physically represent the lasting presence animals and dogs impress on humans, they represent the emotional presence, as all the art was created by Stray Rescue shelter dogs. Underneath each painting hangs a photograph and short biography of the dog-artist, as well as their current status as adopted or available for adoption.
Crossing over to the east gallery, the artwork takes a more serious turn as its artistic representations of transition from the eyes of the animals to the eyes of humans. This space contains masterfully rendered paintings, drawings, prints, illustrations, sculpture and photographs by renowned local and regional artists depicting stray, neglected or abandoned Stray Rescue animal portraits. Traveling through the gallery space, visitors will experience a full spectrum of emotions; from the joyful, colorful and even humorous dog paintings to the hauntingly real photographs by Stray Rescue first responder Donna Lochmann.
As a whole, “Urban Wanderers” exposes the inspirational rescues and redemption efforts Stray Rescue brings to the city of St. Louis. Marshall summed up the hopeful message of the exhibition:
“It’s amazing to me, in our fourth year partnering with Stray Rescue, the resiliency of these animals. Despite the abuse they encountered at the hands of human beings, they are the first to put their heads back, wag their tail and come to you. Their only contact with a human has been horrific, but because of Stray Rescue they are afforded not even a second chance, but a more first chance at a new life.”
In addition to the eye-opening experience students gain from simply viewing the art, “Urban Wanders” seeks to inspire SLU students to take action to continue the work of Stray Rescue. Although monetary donations in the form of art bidding may not be realistic for college students, donations of time are highly encouraged. Located 1.2 miles from campus, Stray Rescue is constantly welcoming student volunteers. “Not many students realize how close they are to the shelter and how close they are to a good deed,” Marshall said.
In addition to service to this organization, students are exclusively invited to an evening with the founder of Stray Rescue, Grim, on April 10.
As this is the first time this exhibition will be held during the school year, SLU students maintain the unique opportunity to experience the powerful effects of “Urban Wanderers.” “Urban Wanderers” not only exposes “The Plight of the Street Dog,” but also the goodness and compassion of the incredible humans that help such helpless animals and selflessly dedicate their lives to the cause. The stories of survival and resiliency of the rescued animals may inspire any person striving to overcome obstacles or dealing with situations out of his or her control. The impossible is possible with the help, compassion and love of others.