Public Debut of the Okey’s Promise: Celebrating the Human – Animal Bond Project

Painting of a white and gray by Artist BZTAT
Painting by Artist BZTAT

The artwork for the Okey’s Promise: Celebrating the Human – Animal Bond Project has been complete for some time now, but we were waiting for the right time to begin sharing it with the public.

I have been working with the Domestic Violence Project, Inc. to plan some events in conjunction with their 35th Anniversary year celebrations, and we are looking forward to making a strong impact on the community.


Our first event will be tomorrow, May 3, 2013 during the First Friday celebrations in downtown Canton, OH’s Arts District. We are also planning exhibits at the Massillon Museum, Malone University, and other locations throughout the Stark County Community. Stay tuned!

If you are in Canton tomorrow, I hope you will join us. The weather is predicted to be fabulous! Here are the particulars:

Okey’s Promise: Celebrating the Human – Animal Bond

First Friday Event

An artistic celebration of animal rescue volunteers and domestic violence advocates coming together for mutual benefit of the community.

Pit Bull dog painting collage by Artist BZTAT
Painting by BZTAT

Time: 6:00pm until 9:00pm
Location: At the “Safe Animals Safe Kids” mural, hanging on the side of the Imperial Room at 4th St. NW and Court Ave. in Downtown Canton.

Artist BZTAT will exhibit her latest Okey’s Promise public art project, an exhibit of 9 artworks highlighting the connections between animal abuse, child abuse and domestic violence, with guests from the Domestic Violence Project, Inc. and local animal rescue groups. The artworks are positive and uplifting, showing the faces of children and companion pets who have triumphed over adversity. At risk youth and women affected by domestic violence contributed to the backgrounds of the artworks. The project was funded by a grant from ArtsInStark and private donations through crowdfunding efforts.

Painting of a young girl by Artist BZTAT
Painting by BZTAT

Rescue groups include: Peace for Pets, Friends of Stark Pound, Second Chance for Animals, Rose’s Rescue, and others. Pets available for adoption will be present!

Want to know more about the Okey’s Promise: Celebrating the Human – Animal Bond Project? Read more here, and watch the video below that was created for the fundraising campaign.

The Writing, and the Drawing is on the Wall.

Okey's Promise Art for the Cause - The Writing, and the Drawing is on the Wall.

I hadn’t given my current public art project a name, nor had I created a video to promote it. Both sort of evolved with each other this past weekend. As I was putting images together for the video, and as I was reviewing research and other articles, a thought kept going through my mind.

The writing is on the wall.

We use this phrase as an ominous warning that, if we do not pay attention to the obvious, we will face dire consequences.

We need to pay attention to the fact that many children and animals in our world are facing dire consequences. We need to look at both and find ways to help them to safety, and we need to aid children affected by domestic violence in dealing with the emotional turmoil in their lives.

Since the images to be employed for the latest mural are of children drawing on a wall, it occurred to me that there was a parallel meaning there.

The video is done, and the title reflects the importance of the the Okey’s Promise mission.

The Writing, and the Drawing, is on the Wall.

Please feel free to share the video and embed it on your website if you like. Please link back to this site if you. Thanks!



The Power of Images

Drawing of a boy by BZTAT
Artwork by BZTAT

Since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, our collective senses have been rattled. Not only with the telling of the story of what happened, but also with the images that have been thrust into our view of frightened children, grief stricken parents, and other signs of intense pain.

And guns. Everywhere you turn – newspapers, TV news, online magazines – you see pictures of assault weapons. It is as if seeing the image of these machines that are designed to kill will somehow motivate us to some kind of action.

As we are gripped with the pain of this one tragedy, however, we tend to ignore the daily tragedy of harm that befalls other children daily.  An average of 5 children die every day as a result of child abuse in the United States. Nearly 6 million children are harmed in some way by domestic abuse each year according to reports, which likely underestimate the true number of abuses cases.

We have ugly pictures to go along with that too. Photos of sad, morose children wth dirty faces and black eyes evoke pity and implore us to do something. Again, it seems that the only way to motivate people to action is to assault them with images of awful things.

Another area of activism that tries to motivate with horrifying imagry is the pet rescue community. Images of bloody and emaciated animals creep their way into my Facebook newsfeed every day. Activists think that sharing these awful pictures of abused and neglected animals will motivate us to do something to stop animal abuse.

Artists often buy into this myth that scare tactics motivate people to action. They fill their artworks with macabre images that thrill the arts intelligencia, who analyze their expressiveness with egoistic verbosity.

But looking at the statistics on mass shootings, child abuse and animal abuse, these motivation tactics do not seem to be working. Children are still being harmed. Animals are still being harmed.  The two phenomena are deeply intertwined in their occurrence in our society.  And shocking us with imagry is not making a dent in creating change.

As an artist, I do not enjoy creating ugly things. I deplore violence towards children and animals, and I want to use my art to educate people about how these two issues are connected. I want to inspire and lead people towards meaningful change. But I cannot, and will not do it by perpetuating the ugliness.

All of my artwork has a positive and joyful quality. It is not by accident. I choose color and other artistic elements that bring about those qualities on purpose. It is not to ignore the less positive realities in life, but to articulate the more positive outcomes that we seek.

With my Okey’s Promise projects, I more purposefully challenge people to initiate a dialogue about the links between animal abuse, child abuse and domestic violence – a particularly ugly reality of human society. But even so, I do this by intriguing people with images of hope instead of creating images that make them want to turn away.

I don’t know if I will make a dent any more than those who resort to sensationalism tactics. I can’t go wrong with hope, though. What have I got to lose?



Kids and Critters shouldn’t be so vulnerable, but they are.

I have written about the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in this space before – here and here.

What happened to that town is not exactly in keeping with the purposes of this blog, but it is related. Addressing violence that happens to children IS an important component of this site’s mission, even if it is not directly linked to animal abuse.

Sandy Hook Memorials photo by R. Olson
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson—

There was, however, an interesting link between animals and kids for me with the Sandy Hook story.

I suspect all Americans have grown a bit cynical and desensitized to hearing about gun violence in schools anymore. We have heard about it so much, it doesn’t make us jump as much anymore. So when my iPhone alerted me with an AP breaking news alert early THAT morning, I turned over in bed and went back to sleep.

When I awakened later, and checked my Facebook, again on my iPhone, a status update from a friend brought me to reality.

A shooting at our local elementary school??? THIS IS NOT RIGHT!!! OMG!!!!!

This was not happening in just any town. It was happening in a friend’s town.

I have read a lot about school shootings, but I never have known someone directly affected by one. Seeing my friend’s raw emotion spilling out on Facebook really shook me.

Kitties for Kids Robin Olson
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson—

My Friend was Robin Olsen who writes the Covered in Cat Hair blog and runs a cat rescue called Kitten Associates. We have met in person at Blog Paws, but mostly we know each other through social media.

Robin lives in Sandy Hook, CT. Her home is down the street from the shooter, Adam Lanza’s home.

It is so close, in fact, members of the press were camped out near her yard.

Initially, no one knew how bad the incident was. When we realized that 20 small children and 6 adults had been murdered at the school, and that the shooter and his mother had also perished, it suddenly became one of those defining moments for everyone, where you remember every detail of your life on that day – at that moment. Kind of like 9/11.

For me, the detail I will remember the most was Robin’s anguish and pain, not just that children had died, but that her community had been irreparably assaulted and changed in an instant. The next day, she posted these words on Facebook:

I’m still in shock. Just want to sit here and cry. I need my community to be ok again. When I see images from all over the US mourning our loss it means it really happened, but it can’t have happened. It just can’t.

Robin does not have children at the school. But it was her town, riveted into international headlines by a tragic event that was beyond comprehension for any of us, especially for someone so close to the whole thing. I felt it much more deeply myself, just knowing someone there. This was not a town defined by the tragedy like Columbine or Aurora were to me. This was Robin’s bucolic little New England town where she rescued kitties. And now, that bucolic town was in SOOOO much pain.

Being the person she is, it did not take Robin long to jump into rescue mode. You see, Robin has cats, and kittens. LOTS of them. Her life is dedicated to rescuing hurt cats and kittens. And those cats and kittens are pretty good at reciprocating by bringing joy and humor and hope to the most dire of circumstances.

Kitties for Kids Newtown, CTIn a few hours, Kitties for Kids was born – to help kids, first responders, and anyone else in the Newtown/Sandy Hook area “find their smile again” by playing with cheerful kitties.

Kitties for Kids donated plush stuffed cats
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson—

People from all over the country donated plush stuffed cats so that each person who visited received a huggable gift. My contribution was to provide Robin with some resources about dealing with children affected by trauma, in case she encountered some who were overwhelmed with pain.

So far, a number of children and other people affected by the Sandy Hook shooting have visited Robin’ kitties. There have been a number of recovered smiles. And the kitties are having a ball playing with their new friends!

Kitties for Kids
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson—

There is no way to fix what happened to Sandy Hook. But there is nothing better than kittens to help people start the healing process when they are so suddenly pulled into a whirlwind of grief and trauma.

Okey’s Promise was created to bring awareness to the links between violence to animals and violence towards women and children. But I think that there is a place for linking children and animals through healing too. And there is a place for remembering that, no matter what kind of horrendous things some people may do, there are many, many more people like Robin doing wonderful and good things to make our world a better place.

Thank you Robin, for reminding me of that.

God bless the town of Sandy Hook and all it’s good and wonderful people. May your hearts heal and may you return to some semblance of normalcy someday.

And may your kitties and kids have a great time playing and smiling and enjoying childhood and kittenhood again in your bucolic little town. Because that’s the way it should be, and can be again.




Public art to make our world a better place for all creatures great and small.