Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

Dogs were the stars of Bark!Art, including on stage

Posted on 24 September 2018 by calvin

A large banner welcomed everyone to the first-ever dog and art festival, Bark!Art.

Article and all photos by STEPHANIE FOX
At too many places in the city—farmer’s markets, restaurants, playhouses—dogs are not welcome. Not so at Bark!Art, a dog-centered festival in the East Nokomis neighborhood where dog-focused businesses, dog owners and dogs came together for two hot afternoons (Sept. 15-16) of shared fun.

The festival was created by Off-Leash Area, an East Nokomis based theater and dance group that a few years ago saw a need for a place for innovative theater, and saw dog frolic and leash-free dog parks as a metaphor for imaginative theater performances.

Photo right: Gigi showed up at Bark!Art for an afternoon of fun.

The brick and mortar theater, Art Box, is Off-Leash Area’s rehearsal and performance space, located at 4200 E. 54th St. For years, the building was vacant, but was purchased by Off-Leash Area and is now a place where small performance companies and artists can find a location for practice, productions, and classes.

It was also the perfect place for a late summer neighborhood festival.

Photo left: Dog-centered businesses, from the dog, treats to dog toys and dog training, set up tents to greet dog owners.

Many East Nokomis neighbors showed up with their dogs, but people came as far as Burnsville to share the day with their canine friends. This is Bark!Art’s first year and putting it together was a challenge said Paul Herwig, one of the organizers. Sponsors included Oxendale’s Market and the Canine Coach.

Part of the fun, Herwig said, was a play featuring a live and on stage canine actor Lily, owned by Herwig. Herwig engaged Canine Coach to train Lily for her part. “It was a bonding experience for us and our dog,” he said.

Photo right: Dog trainer and Bark!Art sponsor Jess Kittredge with her dog, Professor Chaos. She is the Canine Coach who worked with the dog performing in the play “Paws and Effect.”

In addition to the canine actor, the group had a unique and innovative idea. “Dogs were invited into the theater to see the show,” Herwig said. “It’s something specific to this festival and a lot of fun.”

And, this time, dogs were also welcome to be part of the audience. About a dozen dogs came with their owners at Sunday’s performance, to share seats and watch the play.

Photo left: Dogs love the theater, along with their owners.

The play, “Paws and Effect,” is a story of a young misunderstood New York school girl who runs away from home, to Central Park, where she meets a magical dog who teaches her to accept people—including herself—for who they are. The play was written, directed and starred Jennifer Ilse, who along with set designer Herwig, runs Off-Leash Area.

This year’s Bark!Art was fantastic,” said Herwig. “We are a small nonprofit with limited staff and resources. It was a community project that fits the neighborhood.”

Photo right: Off-Leash Area, a contemporary dance and theater company, was one of the sponsors of this years first Bark!Art.

“The only time where there was any commotion from the dogs in the audience was when our neighbor’s dog recognized Lily on stage. As soon as she came on stage they locked eyes,” he said. The two dogs are close friends since puppyhood. “Having dogs in the audience was super fun.”

Herwig hopes that this small festival will become an annual event and will continue to attract people and their dogs, for years into the future.






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