More than a show of puppy love

Upcoming art show pits local artists against breed-specific legislation in Montreal

If every dog has its day, then Montreal’s pit bulls deserve next Saturday. On September 24, over forty artists in favour of a different kind of “anti-bullying” initiative will display original works celebrating the maligned breed at Pit Bull: An Art Show.

Dedicated to “Quebec’s misunderstood dogs,” the event aims to counter negative stereotypes associated with bully breeds—dogs that share a muscular body, broad head, and short fur with a common ancient ancestor. According to show organizer, Lindsay Campbell, half of art sale profits and all refreshment sale profits will support Sit With Me Shelter Dog Rescue, a volunteer-run organization dedicated to saving, rehabilitating, and rehoming abandoned dogs most at risk for being put down.“The dog-loving community of Montreal has been so overwhelmed with bad news that we really need a positive night to celebrate our dogs, and the love we all share for them,” said Campbell.

Breed-specific legislation (BSL), proposed by Mayor Denis Coderre this summer following a fatal dog attack, may soon make it illegal to own not only pit bull-type dogs, including American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, and American pit bull terriers, but also pit bull mixed breeds and those with similar physical builds, like bull terriers and bulldogs. If BSL moves ahead, public muzzling and sterilization of bully breeds will become mandatory in Montreal by early next year.

“Putting a muzzle on my boy will instantly give people the wrong idea, and they won’t want to stop and say hello to him anymore,” Campbell said. “They will fear him and this breaks my heart…because he thrives on attention. He will still try to give kisses and his tail will wag, but he won’t understand what he’s done to deserve this punishment.”

The possibility of having to treat her dog like a danger to the public prompted Campbell to contact fellow canine-loving artists and curate the show. “I knew I needed to do something. Art is all I have to offer… Art is powerful and I hope our efforts can create positive change,” she said.

By bringing together locally and internationally acclaimed artists who use a wide swath of mediums, Campbell hopes to remind viewers of the beauty, diversity and individuality of bully breeds. If public opinion doesn’t visibly sway against BSL, thousands of healthy, happy, and temperamentally-sound pit bulls, and bully breed mixes, could lose their lives because of the way they look, she said.

Starchild Stela, a graffiti artist, illustrator, and zine maker best known for their feminist street art, agreed. “I’m ashamed of my city… Montreal has big problems with animal welfare,” they said, referencing the Berger Blanc shelter animal abuse controversy, and increasingly high number of stray and abandoned pets.

From top left clockwise: Lindsay Campbell, MC Baldassari, Starchild Stela, Sophie Garmand
From top left clockwise: Lindsay Campbell, MC Baldassari, Starchild Stela, Sophie Garmand

“I am incredibly sad to think about the repercussions a [pit bull] ban will have on communities.” Starchild Stela plans to contribute a series of femme-presenting characters interacting with their dogs to the event, in an effort to “spark discussions, encourage folks to take action, and even adopt if considering it,” they said.

 

Participating freelance illustrator and muralist, MC Baldassari, is focused on capturing the dignity of the underdog. “I want to make a positive and beautiful representation of a pit bull, highlighting what cute and kind dogs they can be,” she said. “They’re not the villains that are portrayed in the media… we want to propose another way to see them.”

Pit Bull: An Art Show opens on Sept. 24 at MainLine Gallery (3905 St Laurent) from 5 p.m. – 11 p.m. and will run through Sept. 28. For more information visit the Facebook Event.
Disclaimer: A few statements in this article were edited for clarity and accuracy. The Concordian regrets its error.

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