"Thunder Bomb Tom" by Nick Knight
“Thunder Bomb Tom” by Nick Knight

Every year when other people are scrambling to figure out what to buy for loved ones, I just saunter on over to a couple of the wonderful local art fairs and pick up some new pieces for my friends and family. That way, even if I pick something one of my family members isn’t wild about, at least I put some money in the pocket of a local artist.

For the cat lover in your life, the show to stop by this season is the eighth annual Under $50 Art Show at Liberty Tattoo & Art Parlor on Saturday, Nov. 26.

The yearly show donates a portion of the proceeds to a worthy cause, and this time, the offerings from 30 local artists will help support Alley Cat Advocates, a Louisville nonprofit that focuses on providing spay and neuter services to the many fine alley cats of urban Louisville.

Insider spoke with Liberty Tattoo co-owner Suzanne Edds, co-founder of Alley Cat Advocates Karen Little, as well as a few of the artists and organizers behind the show.

“We’ve done it since we’ve been open,” says Edds. “The way it works is the artists get 70 percent of what their works sell for, and we get the 30 percent — and that goes out to some organization.”

Over the years, Liberty has raised funds for a variety of nonprofits like the Shamrock Foundation, the Little Loom House and Girls Rock Louisville.

In addition to sharing the proceeds, Liberty also holds a raffle for a $100 gift certificate to the shop.

“It’s just a buck to participate,” says Edds. “It’s awesome for people, it goes to a good thing, and there’s a chance they could win part of a tattoo or a whole tattoo.”

Edds became aware of Alley Cat Advocates when she volunteered with one its community partners, the Humane Society’s S.N.I.P. Clinic. “That’s usually how it comes about, it’s something we’ve experienced during the year that leads us to an organization,” she explains.

Karen Little with Buddy Bear
Karen Little with Buddy Bear

Since Alley Cat Advocates began in 1999, it has helped to spay and neuter more than 35,000 cats.

Co-founder Little remembers how it all began: “I was a faculty member at the University of Louisville. I lived — still do — in Old Louisville, and I was lucky enough to be able to walk to my office. And I kept finding stray cats along my route. So we connected with a rescue group in town.”

She helped find homes for some of the cats, but she eventually realized there were far too many cats and far too few homes.

“It became clear to me there were not enough adoptive homes for the strays, and I thought there must be another way to deal with that problem,” says Little.

After traveling to a number of animal welfare conferences around the country, Little and her husband decided on a new model for helping kitties in the community.

“And that’s basically the trapping of strays, then neutering or spaying of them, and the returning of them back to the neighborhoods they call home,” she says.

As a former Old Louisville resident, I can attest that I saw plenty of cats, but never any rats, suggesting the urban felines are doing a solid job at keeping the vermin population down.

Spaying and neutering also helps the cats be better neighbors.

“Not only are they not able to reproduce, they are also vaccinated, and most of the behaviors people find offensive regarding stray cats have to do with their mating behavior — the spraying, the roaming, the fighting,” says Little.

One of Sarah Tidwell's pet caricatures | Photo by Jeral Tidwell
One of Sarah Tidwell’s pet caricatures | Photo by Jeral Tidwell

Many of the artists who contributed to Saturday’s Under $50 Art Show are civic-minded animal lovers. Nick Knight — whose piece “Thunder Bomb Tom” will be available for purchase at the show — has two cats, Oujia and Bigs.

“It’s the responsibility of artists to share their work, especially for smaller galleries and independent shows,” the artist says. “The fact that Alley Cat Advocates benefits from the show makes the decision to contribute that much easier.”

Sarah Tidwell is a local favorite whose more formal work centers around all sorts of animals.

“My husband and I have been kind of busy, so not a lot of new art got created this past spring and summer … (but) I had several events this summer and fall, and a lot of them are pet events,” she says.

Sarah Tidwell | Photo by Jeral Tidwell
Sarah Tidwell | Photo by Jeral Tidwell

Tidwell and her husband, artist Jeral Tidwell, are in the process of cleaning and renovating a massive 9,000-square-foot building on Seventh Street. Early on, while moving around abandoned boxes that belonged to the previous owner, Sarah Tidwell stumbled on an idea.

“We had just found an antique box of place cards,” she begins. “So I took this box (to an event) and sat at the table and decided to do $5 caricatures of your pet. I’d ink the caricature and put a little bit of watercolor on it, and they’d come back in five minutes and it’d be done. I just had people text me photos of their pets on the spot.”

It’s proven popular at events, and on Saturday, Tidwell will be on hand to transform your kitty and puppy photos into art, with the proceeds going to Alley Cat Advocates.

The Under $50 Art Show will hang through Dec. 28, but the opening reception and holiday party is Saturday, Nov. 26, from 6-9 p.m. Liberty Tattoo is located at 2801 S. Third St.

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Eli Keel
Eli Keel is “pretty much” a Louisville native. You may have seen him around town reading poetry, short stories, dancing or acting. He’s a passionate locavore, so you may have also seen him stuffing his face at one of Louisville’s amazing restaurants. When he isn’t too busy writing short stories, he blogs at amanwalksintoablog.wordpress.com.