09/21/08 — Child's eye view decorates walls of new animal shelter

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Child's eye view decorates walls of new animal shelter

By Winkie Lee
Published in News on September 21, 2008 7:27 AM

In real life, Coby is a little bit shy around people he doesn't know, but quite happy to spend time with his family, including 5-year-old Tanner Willman.

The almost 1-year-old tabby cat was a stray before the Willmans welcomed him into their Goldsboro home. Now, he has a safe and happy environment and enjoys such activities as dancing with Tanner.

Shelter Painting

-- By Amanda Hancock

In the world of art, Coby is immortalized at the Wayne County Animal Adoption and Education Center, featured in one of 19 children's paintings that are framed and hanging on the walls.

Tanner, the son of Paul and Dana Willman, painted a picture of Coby during one of the Arts Council of Wayne County's summer art classes because "I like him," he says.

In real life, Ruby, a 6-year-old beagle, is a big fan of watermelon. Pull a slice of it out of the refrigerator, and she'll follow you anywhere, says Janet Lancaster.

Like Coby, Ruby is a rescued animal. The family got her from Wayne County Humane Society member Sandy Davis.

When Ruby's not chowing down, she likes sleeping in sunshine and spending time with her friend, Janet and Bill's daughter, Lien.

Lien and Ruby have more than a friendship in common -- they share a birthday. Both enjoyed cake earlier this month as they turned 6 years old.

In the world of art, Ruby's picture, like Coby's, is on a wall at the animal center. Like other students in the Raining Cats and Dogs art class, Lien did four paintings, each of different animals, over the course of a week and got to choose which one would be exhibited.

This young lady didn't need to wait the whole week to know which picture she wanted. From day one, the Pinewood community resident knew it would be the one of Ruby.

It just seemed right to have the children paint something for the center, say Gallery and Education Director Catherine Eagles and teacher Penny Craven.

The idea for the project came from Mrs. Eagles and was inspired by one her daughter, Eliza, did on her eighth birthday in June. Instead of asking for presents, Eliza asked for contributions for the new animal center. A total of $200 was collected.

Helping the shelter was still on Mrs. Eagles' mind when it was time to plan summer art classes.

"The shelter is an important part of the community, and we like to spread art throughout the community," Mrs. Eagles says. "These paintings that they created in these (three) classes are so big and beautiful that people need to see them."

The children "were so excited because they always enjoy painting anything that has to do with animals," says Mrs. Craven, who has taught at the Arts Council for several years. "That's their favorite thing to paint. Some of them tried to paint their own dog or their own cat or someone else's dog or cat they knew."

After the paintings were completed, Mrs. Eagles placed them in poster frames and the shelter staff hung them.

They've been donated to remain at the center for as long as the center wants them, she says.

Mrs. Craven went to the center's open house on Aug. 16 and was pleased with what she saw.

"I thought it was fantastic," she says. "I was so impressed. I had no idea it was going to be displayed like it belonged there. That's how it looked.

"I saw a lot of my students there. They were very excited. The moms had their cameras. They were taking pictures of the children with their works.

"It was really nice of the shelter to do that," she says of the exhibit. "It kind of brings the art community and the dog and cat community together."

"I think it was cool," says Meredith Jones, the 8-year-old daughter of Robert and Lori Jones of the Nahunta community. "All those people that go in there to adopt dogs can see how artistic kids can be."

Meredith chose to paint dogs in her class because of Ted, a blonde lab she used to have, and Kizzy, a chocolate lab puppy her family now keeps.

Her sister, Colleen, 6, also did a painting that is on display above the center's water fountain. Hers is of a cat.

It wasn't just parents and children who were impressed by the display. The public was, too.

During the open house, Mrs. Craven saw a woman look at Tanner's painting and exclaim, "That's my cat! That looks just like my cat."

The art is everywhere, including in offices.

Will Sutton's painting of a Dalmatian is hanging in the office of center director Justin Scally. In it, the dog is sitting next to a fire hydrant. Why? Because he's a fire dog, the 6-year-old son of Doug and Leigh Sutton of Walnut Creek Village answers.

Will says he thinks it's "kind of fun" having his painting displayed in the director's office, and his mother is pleased that Will and the other children had the chance to not only contribute to their community, but learn something as well.

It helps them learn that they don't need to go to a store to buy a pet. Instead, they can go to the animal center "and pick out one that needs a home," she says.