The first seven of 50 painted pups in Southeastern Guide Dogs Superheroes on Parade campaign charmed members of the public earlier this week at the Sundial in St. Petersburg. Mayor Rick Kriseman, who himself has raised several guide dogs-in-training for the nonprofit, was there to show his support.
The event sought to raise awareness—and funds—for the Bradenton-based nonprofit with the unveiling of several colorfully decorated statues, each painted by a local artist, of Labrador retrievers wearing capes (hence the "superhero" moniker).
Kriseman said the Southeastern Guide Dogs, which trains dogs to be companions and helpers for the visually impaired, is a win-win for the community, and that it's important to support such an organization through events and other means.
“It’s a way of raising funds and those funds really make a difference in people’s lives. They use those for the dogs, they don’t charge for the dogs when they give the dog to someone who needs it,” Kriseman said. “It’s a win for the city because we think of ourselves as a city of the arts. So what better way of working with [a] non-profit that to do something that brings, even more, art and expression?”
One of the dogs unveiled was city-sponsored “Saint Pete,” which was painted by artist Geff Strik. Strik said his statue harkens back to the city's Russian roots (the city was founded by Russian immigrant Peter Demens, who named the city after his birthplace, St. Petersburg, Russia). Strik sought inspiration from Fabergé eggs, which were first created in Russia.
Members of the public can sponsor one of these "Superheroes" for $5,000, which of course benefits Southeastern Guide Dogs.
In 2016, around 100 caped Labrador retriever dog sculptures designed and manufactured by artist Scott Moore and sponsored by local businesses, were spread out all around the Sarasota area. Another batch of bedecked dog statues may also be placed throughout Tampa in the near future to help raise awareness for the nonprofit.
Other artists/dogs included in the project's St. Pete unveiling: Tara Radosevich ("Justice"), Carrie Jadus ("Duke"), James Eric ("Roosevelt"), Rob Sardella ("Goldie"), Anna Hamilton Fields ("Swahrey") and Susan Bauerle ("Roux").