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“Out of the Blue” ArtPrize memorial for dog attack victims stirs breed controversy

Posted at 6:33 PM, Sep 25, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-25 19:00:22-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. –The ArtPrize entry, “Out of the Blue,” memorializes victims of fatal dog attacks; most of them were killed by pit bulls.

A row of crosses stands at Calder Plaza, displaying flowers and posters of the faces of dog attack victims.  The victims are people ages 10-weeks-old to 93-years-old who were killed this year.

Spectators gave FOX 17 mixed reviews: either agreeing with its message or saying  that it further stereotypes the breed.

The artist Joan Kowal called her art a pay-it-forward piece.  She is hoping to raise awareness for dog attack victims and educate pet owners on proper pet management.

“These people need love,” said Kowal. “We cannot keep forgetting about these people.”

The victims in the memorial were attacked by Rottweilers, Bullmastiffs and mixed breeds, but mostly by pit bulls. Kowal said she is only reporting what the family of the victims have reported.

“The way we have dealt with the increased attacks by bullied breeds is by this kind of strange dysfunctional family stuff that says hey, let’s just hide it, and persecute the people who bring this to light,” said Kowal.

Former pit bull owners like Ramona Farmer visited this exhibit with her family. Farmer said it brought tears to her eyes knowing that these people were killed and how loyal her pit-bulls were.

“When I would walk her anywhere she was always right next to me,” said Farmer. “So (pit bulls) are very loyal dogs, but like I said, I think that some of them are misunderstood.”

Yet the picture the art paints Farmer said is accurate. She said she has seen many types of personalities in the breed, and chooses to keep her young children away from them.

“Me being a person that likes pit bulls, I don’t see anything wrong with it because it’s true,” said Farmer.

At the end of the exhibit, Kowal placed fliers advocating for proper pet management. Research studies are quoted, including research from the Journal of Veterinary Medical Association that said there is “no evidence that one kind of dog is more likely to injure a human being than another kind of dog.”

Kowal said a pastor will be at the exhibit on Saturday at 6 p.m. to lead a prayer for victims of dog attacks.

Then on Sunday at 10 a.m. a group will lead a protest at the exhibit, see their Facebook page, ART PRIZE: Don’t bully my bully.