Furry Friends

Your four-legged friends are always there for you. They’re your faithful companions along this journey we call life. You want the best for your pets, so imagine a place and event that’s designed especially for them. Thanks to the Shemer Art Center and its Furry Friends Fine Arts Festival, they can enjoy a time that’s devoted entirely to the dogs. 

“People get the most joy out of bringing their dogs to an event that’s specifically for them,” said Shonna James, executive director at Shemer. “It’s not like taking them out running errands.”

Art and furry friends — how do they go together? To answer the how, you need to understand why Shemer was created.

“The Shemer Art Center is set in the very first home that was built in Arcadia,” James said.  

In 1919, water lines were being installed in what is now the present-day Arcadia neighborhood. Needing to have the foreman residing on-site, the water company built him a house.

Once the water project was completed, the Suhr family of Oil City, PA, who were the heirs to the Pennzoil fortune, purchased this house and made it their winter residence for 50 years.

Enter Arcadia resident Martha Shemer who was searching for a place to transform into a community center. This house met her specifications, so when it went on the market in 1984, she bought it. Shemer donated the house to the City of Phoenix, and the mayor decreed it an art center.

Classes, workshops, lectures, exhibitions and events comprise what Shemer refers to as its five pillars of community offerings.

“We’re a resource for area residents from five to 95 years old,” James said. “There’s always something going on here.”

While the city owns and maintains the house and grounds, the Shemer Art Center, itself, is a nonprofit entity. This means it depends on donations and fundraising to run its daily operations and fund its art programs. According to James, many area residents were unaware of the center. To raise awareness, four uniquely tailored annual events were created to target different markets with the objective of introducing Shemer to as many people as possible.

Established in 2016, the Furry Friends Fine Arts Festival is one of these events, and it was held this year on Saturday, September 15.   

“This event,” James said, “was created mostly for the Arcadia neighborhood because so many people have pets and walk their dogs. It provides them the opportunity to bring their pets and get familiar with Shemer while having a great family day.” 

Planning begins about three months before the big day when James reaches out to artists and vendors many of whom have operated booths in prior years. The pet-related artists and vendors make this festival really special. From paintings to handmade jewelry, crafts and home decor items, if it’s animal themed art, you’ll find it at Furry Friends. As for vendors, you’ll find many areas of pet services represented like groomers, vets, paw readers and custom bed makers.   

“I get most excited and motivated by the people who return each year,” James said. “That’s a great compliment.”