Furry friends inspire

If Sherié Franssen's dogs help raise money this weekend for the Huntington Beach Art Center, it won't be the first time they've benefited her artistic career.

Franssen, one of the 11 artists featured in the center's "Pet Project" exhibit, creates abstract paintings that consist of uninhibited splashes of color. Often, she said, she gets her inspiration from watching her Australian shepherds, Zuzu and Sadie, run around at Huntington Dog Beach.

"When you see it manifested outside you in other beings, especially your dogs, and the thrill they have of being alive, it can't help but influence the work," Franssen said.

Saturday, Franssen plans to bring Zuzu and Sadie to the Dog-A-Thon fundraiser, in which owners are invited to solicit pledges and walk their dogs on a one-mile route through downtown Huntington Beach.

Curator Darlene DeAngelo said the center had done an auction the last 10 years for its summer fundraiser, but opted for a change this year and embraced Huntington Beach's reputation as a haven for dog owners.

"We're such a dog-loving community," she said. "I hope a lot of people will be proud to bring their dogs and walk around downtown Huntington Beach. You can't do that in a lot of cities."

Franssen and the 10 other artists in "Pet Project," which closes this weekend, contributed works inspired — and even partially created — by animals. DeAngelo put a call out to artists she knew who owned pets, and paintings, photographs, sculptures and mixed media have filled the downtown gallery since June 3.

Among the other works on display are photographs by Amy Caterina, which evoke the world as seen by her dachshund, and mixed-media collages by Mark Dutcher, who incorporates pieces of cardboard that his dogs have shredded with their teeth.

The Dog-A-Thon takes place on the exhibit's last day and will be followed by a pet fair outside the center. The top three fundraising dogs and their owners will receive one of three prizes: an overnight stay at the Shorebreak Hotel, an overnight stay at the Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort and a basket from a pet food company.

Throughout the day, there will also be chance drawings for an overnight stay and dinner at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa, dinner at local restaurants and more.

DeAngelo, who often pet-sits for her artist friends, said her own love of creatures inspired the show and fundraiser.

"I've been to a lot of studios, and I've only been bitten once by an artist's dog," she said.

If You Go

What: Dog-A-Thon

Where: Huntington Beach Art Center, 538 Main St.

When: Registration from 8:30 to 9:25 a.m. Saturday; walk at 9:30 a.m.; pet fair from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Cost: $20 per walker (one dog per walker)

Information: (714) 374-1650 or http://www.huntingtonbeachartcenter.org

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