Indoor, outdoor art shows: raining dogs, cats

In these dog days of summer, the route to relief from the humidity seemed clear. I took a break from the sun and headed to the John Michael Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan.

That’s where an exhibit called “Dog Show” is in place until Oct. 19. Playful photos, emotion-filled oil paintings, drawings, sculptures and embroidery make statements that go from whimsical to political.

This artistic tribute to everybody’s best friend is appealing, not just because of the subject, but because of the artists’ clear devotion to these loyal creatures.

Deborah Brown, for example, is a volunteer dog walker for the Humane Society of New York. Oil painting portraits of “shelter dogs” are her contribution to the Kohler show.

“I like to draw the faces of dogs just because I find them so beautiful and quite human at times,” writes artist Carolanne Patterson, also of New York.

Some components are from the personal collections of artists. That’s the deal with Amie McNeel of Ohio, a sculptor who works with steel. She also is a dog rescuer; she offers sleek and motion-filled drawings of canines that she has known – Yoda, Tagg, Eva, Minnie, Maude. The figures contemplate, turn and play on top of aeronautical maps, a symbol of their “personal navigations” through the world, the artist’s statement explains.

Racine art diva Karen Johnson Boyd lends, from her extensive art collection, the intricate porcelain sculptures of another Ohio artist, Jack Earl.

The Kohler art center has been around 35 years and presently is sharing a birthday celebration with Sheboygan, which is 150. Through Sept. 28, the exhibit “Cake Mix” is a fun and extensive assortment of multimedia birthday cakes created by kids, adults, local residents and artists with nationwide exposure.

It’s a show that gives entirely new meanings to the terms sheet cake, fish cake, marble cake and Death by Chocolate (one of the rare dark clouds in this cheery lineup).

Yes, this is the same Kohler family whose plumbing fixtures are known worldwide, and its permanent collection includes hefty art-industry connections. For more about the facility’s history or shows, call (920) 458-6144 or go to www.jmkac.org.

OK, cat people deserve a bit of attention, too. Better than a scratch behind the ears is a chance to go Cat’n Around Downtown in Racine. That’s the title for the city’s second annual outdoor art splash.

On downtown sidewalks and in storefront windows are 151 Fiberglass cats (50 sitting, 101 standing – it figures that they all refuse to do the same thing). They have been decorated by artists, similar to the “Cows on Parade” that filled downtown Chicago in 1999.

This free art show is in place until Sept. 22. The cats will be auctioned off at 2 p.m. Oct. 4 at the Racine on the Lake Festival Hall; proceeds go to the Racine Heritage Museum and the Downtown Racine Corp.

Most of the cats are on Main and Sixth streets; each weighs 25 pounds; walking tour maps are available. To see the cats online and cast a vote for People’s Choice, go to www.racinecats.com. Have questions? Call (262) 634-6002.

Some segues are just so natural. Now let’s fill up the tank and take a nice lake drive north, over to Sturgeon Bay, where the city’s namesake fish go on the auction block this weekend. Twenty Fiberglass sturgeon, each eight feet long, have been gussied up by local artists.

This is the third annual sturgeon art auction; proceeds go to the artists and charitable causes. For more, go to www.sturgeonbay.net or call (800) 301-6695.

While you’re at it, ask for a free copy of the new “Wisconsin Harbor Town Guide,” a collaborative effort that takes a look at all the state’s great lakefront tourism gems, from Kenosha to Superior.

Working as part of a larger group is a smart way to make yourself known. This colorful guide includes attractions, special events, sailing directions and a little local history for each of the 18 cities that are included. There also are chapters about charter fishing and lighthouses.

One last note about outdoor art blitzes: Milwaukee’s deluge of Beasties will return in 2004. For more, go to www.beastiebeat.org or call (414) 291-6010. In 2002, the project raised more than $300,000 to subsidize music education program; each of the 60 Fiberglass creatures had a musical theme.

And one last note about fish: Berghoff Beer and the Joseph Huber Brewing Company are looking for two good muskie fishers, to represent the brewery in the Greater Wisconsin Muskie Tournament, to be Oct. 3-5 in St. Germain (Vilas County).

“We’ll select a team that enjoys fishing, loves the outdoors, welcomes a challenge and who will represent the Berghoff brand in the best traditions of friendly competition,” says Gary Knowles, assistant vice president of Huber Brewing, based in Monroe.

To be considered, send a short statement (50 words or less) about why you should be chosen as the team. Entries must be postmarked by Sept. 8; winners will be notified by Sept. 15.

Entry blanks are at www.huberbrewery.com and where Berghoff beer is sold. Only snail mail entries will be accepted.

What’s in it for you? Berghoff will cover the tourney entry fee, lodging, use of a fishing guide, boat and tackle – plus a few other things.

For more about the catch-and-release event, go to www.st-germain.com/fishtourny.htm or call (800) 727-7203.