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Wednesday, Dec 19, 2018
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Tampa Bay Internet Cat Video Festival could be catnip to animal lovers

The watch-and-share phenomenon of online cat videos comes to a live audience on Saturday in an event that aims to be the cat’s pajamas for animal lovers.

The inaugural Tampa Bay Internet Cat Video Festival debuts on Saturday at ARTpool Gallery to promote SPCA Tampa Bay. The festivities include animal-themed art on display, performances by acrobats dressed as cats and a fashion show with animal prints and adoptable pets on the catwalk.

“The entire event will be an exciting collaboration for the community with lots of great art; quirky, fun fashion; the movie premiere; and an awesome time for all ages to learn about and celebrate the animal kingdom,” said Marina Williams, owner and curator of the gallery at 2030 Central Ave.

ARTpool hosts a different-themed art party each month to bring together local artists through photography, painting, music, fashion and other media.

The original Internet Cat Video Festival started in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 2012 at Walker Art Center, which showed cat antics on a large outdoor screen before 10,000 people. The festival has since expanded to London, Athens and Sydney, organizers said.

Seattle filmmaker Will Braden curated the 70-minute video reel that will be shown at ARTpool starting at 9 p.m. The video is a mix of “thoughtful cat documentaries,” quirky music videos and caught-on-camera moments, SPCA Tampa Bay said.

Braden knows what an audience considers catnip.

One of his series of black-and-white videos featuring Henri, Le Chat Noir, a cat of existential musings such as “I’m surrounded by morons” and “We cannot escape ourselves,” won a Golden Kitty People’s Choice award at the 2012 Minneapolis festival.

Doors open at 8 p.m. to a showcase of animal art featuring cats, dogs, birds and even butterflies, Williams said. Featured local artists include Robert Phelps, a painter known for his pet portraits and custom murals for children’s rooms.

SPCA Tampa Bay, based in Largo, will have information on adoptable pets throughout the evening. Organizers ask that attendees leave their pets at home, although service animals are permitted.

Attendees are encouraged to dress as their favorite animals instead. Those with the best costumes will receive prizes from ARTpool and free tickets to the gallery’s June sci-fi-themed art party and show.

The fashion show begins about 10 p.m., after the videos end. Models dressed as cats in professional makeup and sporting animal prints will strut down the catwalk with SPCA staff members and adoptable pets, said Paula Allen, SPCA Tampa Bay’s community program director.

Three items featured on the runway will be for sale, with proceeds benefiting SPCA Tampa Bay.

Admission is $10. Purchase tickets at www.artpoolrules.com or at the door.

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