There’s a new face at the Arts Council of Wayne County. He stands about 3 inches tall, has four legs and a tail and answers to the name Artie.
Artie is a 3-month-old black cat with specks of white on his tummy and under his chin.
When anyone goes to the Arts Council, Artie runs to greet them, wanting to play and be petted.
Although he’s a rambunctious kitten now, just a few months ago, he was in a bad situation, with no mother to take care of him.
“A couple out in the country found him after Hurricane Florence and were not able to take care of him, but wanted to get someone who could,” said Georgia Dees, interim Arts Council director. “So they posted it on Facebook saying they needed someone to bottle feed the kitten.
“Something about him was just so cute. I texted the guy and said if you still have him, you can bring him to the Arts Council and I’ll try.”
The couple took Artie to the Arts Council, along with kitten formula and tiny bottles for him.
“We had to bottle feed him every few hours for about five weeks,” Dees said. “It was like having a baby. I would bring him to the Arts Council during the day, and everyone here would help feed him. Then I’d take him home at night. I was so tired when I came in to work.”
Dees said she was going to bottle feed Artie just until he was healthy, then try to find a good home for him.
“But you know how that goes,” she said.
Artie is officially the Arts Council mascot now. And everyone there helps take care of him.
And everyone who goes to the Arts Council has to stop and play with Artie, Dees said.
“We’ve even had people with allergies to cats come and see him briefly,” she said.
Karen Kestler, office manager at the Arts Council, said she’s even seen big rugged men get down on the floor and play with Artie.
“These big men are so kind and gentle with him,” she said. “Everybody is so excited when they walk in and see Artie.”
If you stop by the Arts Council and happen to be in the downstairs gallery, you just might see a streak of black whiz by you. That would be Artie. His favorite activity is to run all around the gallery. During the holiday season, Artie would climb halfway up the Arts Council’s tall tree in the gallery.
One of his favorite toys is a rubber band, which he pushes all over the floor, stretches and sometimes hides under a rug.
He has his own little safe space under an end table in Dees’ office.
When he needs a break, Artie will climb up on the back of a couch in Dees’ office for a nap. Sometimes he’ll curl up in a chair, and sometimes he’ll even take a nap on her — or Kestler’s — desk.
“Sometimes we’ll be sitting here and next thing you know, Artie’s on our desk,” Dees said.
He has scared Kestler a few times leaping onto her desk, or crawling up her leg.
At home, Artie likes to play with Dees’ other two cats, Holly and Neil, and her small dog, Bucky.
When driving to work, Dees lets Artie have free rein in her car.
“He likes to ride to work on my shoulder,” she said. “People stare at us. One day, Artie stood on my shoulder with his tail in my face. This guy came up next to me and gave me a look.”
Dees said Artie makes working more fun, and he keeps everyone laughing.
The kitten has come a long way from the tiny little thing with its eyes still closed when Dees first took him into her heart.
“We didn’t plan it, it just happened,” she said of the new mascot. “And it was good it happened.”
In the future, the Arts Council is planning on have a Painting with Artie class.