Take time to consider the message of ArtPrize entry ‘Hope Dog’

If you live in West Michigan, you’re probably aware that the wildly popular ArtPrize gets under way next week, from Sept. 18 to Oct. 6.

The international art competition, featuring installations all over downtown Grand Rapids, is free and open to the public. In fact, the public is invited to participate by voting for their favorite pieces, and the top prize is $200,000. For all the information you’ll need on visiting the annual event, including a search function to find entries by artist name, subject matter or location, be sure to check out the ArtPrize website.

An up-close look at Hope Dog reveals it's made of thousands of photographs of dogs.

An up-close look at Hope Dog reveals it’s made of thousands of photographs of shelter dogs.

I ran into one entry this morning as I was delivering copies of Dogs Unleashed magazine, a publication of Pet Supplies Plus. I stopped in to the Riverview Center, an office building at Sixth and Front downtown, to distribute magazines to Tommy FitzGerald‘s restaurant, Cafe Stella.

The restaurant is located inside Riverview Center, and just outside the cafe is an ArtPrize entry called Hope Dog. (Yes, it’s already installed, but you can’t vote yet). I snapped a few photos of the piece, a sort of papier mache-like dog sculpture made up of a collage of black and white dog photos. It has faux fur for the ears and tails, and big brown eyes.

The statement from artist Mercedes Keller accompanies Hope Dog.

The statement from artist Mercedes Keller accompanies Hope Dog.

I also snapped a quick photo of the artist’s statement, figuring I’d take time to read it when I got home (yes, I was in a rush, as usual). I did read it when I got home, and it nearly brought me to tears.

While it may not win the grand prize, I applaud artist Mercedes Keller for her work and especially for her statement. I hope those visiting take the time to read it and feel the same emotions I did. At the very least, I hope all those viewing Hope Dog take time to think about the thousands of shelter pets at the same crossroads.

Hope dog 2

Hope Dog is roughly the size of a medium-sized dog.

Here’s the statement that accompanies Hope Dog:

I bark my greeting as I hear the familiar steps on the concrete floor. The man stops at my kennel and my tail wags in anticipation as he walks me down the rows of my comrades. I bark my goodbyes, feeling a little sad for those I’ve left behind. As I walk I dream of a life with a new home where I can run and smell all the old familiar smells and feel the love of a human again. A tinge of fear lingers as we approach the two doors. To the right, to the right, I plead silently. I remember the cries of anguish from the left door that came creeping out from beneath its darkened chambers. My feet buckle as I stare up, my eyes pleading to the man who now holds my future in his hands. We reach the crossroads …

Only we can write the end to stories like these, with passion, with knowledge, with HOPE.

Mercedes Keller


Mary Ullmer is editor of Dogs Unleashed, a lifestyle magazine for dog lovers. Contact her at info@dogsunleashedmag.com. To subscribe to Dogs Unleashed, visit dogsunleashedmag.com, and be sure to “like” Dogs Unleashed Magazine on Facebook.