Elementary and middle-school students in Maryland raised more than $2,000 over the weekend in the fourth annual "Kindness for Paws Art Show," the Maryland Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said Sunday.
Students sold their drawings, paintings, prints and sculptures of dogs and cats that have been adopted from the organization.
More than 800 pieces of art were created through the program, which gives children a chance to make a connection with the animals they're depicting, while also accruing required service hours, said Katie Flory, community affairs director for the Maryland SPCA.
The art was sold for a suggested donation of $5 at a pop-up gallery at White Marsh Mall on Sunday.
Flory said animal cruelty is a serious issue in the Baltimore area, where the SPCA facilitates the adoption of more than 3,500 animals each year. The organization's staff and volunteers visit schools to introduce children to animals and teach them how to be humane to them. More than 5,300 students participated in those classes last year.
"What better way to combat that problem," she asked, "than the next generation showing their love for homeless animals?"
Analyn Weyant, a 12-year-old seventh-grader at Perry Hall Middle School, made a black linoleum print of a Doberman, which she overlaid with colored pencil and white chalk. She would've probably spent part of her Sunday looking at pictures of dogs anyway, she said. It's one of her hobbies.
"Usually when I'm bored, I just go on websites and look at pictures of dogs," she said. "Then I ask my dad for another dog."
The family has two already, and the kids want a husky, said Analyn's mother, Nicole Weyant. "My kids still keep trying to get my husband into it," she said. "It's not out of the question."
Molly Schappel, an art teacher at Perry Hall Middle, always enjoyed painting her family's pets. When she was asked to donate a painting a few years ago, she thought, why not bring a similar project to her art class?
"The light bulb went off," Schappel said. "I teach at a very big school. I could get hundreds of kids to do these paintings."
The program has spread to all of the seventh-grade art classes at Perry Hall Middle, and to classes at five other schools: General John Stricker Middle, Grange Elementary, Kingsville Elementary, Middle River Middle and City Neighbors High.
Barbara and Gene DeCarlo of Parkville stopped by the art show during their Sunday morning stroll through the mall. The pair picked up a papier-mache sculpture of a dog and a handful of paintings for their house.
"I wanted one of the bigger ones," said Barbara DeCarlo, 61, as she cradled the papier-mache dog in her arms.
Gene DeCarlo, 68, said he had some ideas of where he wanted to put the artwork in their house. The dog sculpture will get a place of prominence that can be seen from outside, he said, making it the proverbial "doggie in the window."
Kailey and Ryan Prisco, 8-year-old twins in the second grade at Kingsville Elementary, both drew kittens. The brother and sister came to the mall Sunday with their parents, Alicia and Michael, and their older sister, Lexi.
"Cats usually play and they're usually loving," Kailey said, showing her picture.
Ryan held up his next, pointing out that he'd modeled the colors, eyes and ears of his pet cat, Lance.
"It looks like my cat," he said.
Second-grader Adrina Latosh, 8, came to the mall Sunday in a sweater that said "YAY," eager for someone — anyone other than her mom or dad — to buy her pink-and-black painting of her cat, Lulu.
Adrina drew five hearts and wrote the word "playful" in the painting, which she made with paint, chalk and colored pencil. It's the best way to describe Lulu, she said.
"She's really crazy and she runs around," she said.
Having the children depict a real animal that has been adopted, and donate the proceeds to help others drove home the point, Schappel said — "knowing they're not just making artwork but serving a bigger purpose."