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NOLA Urban Icons: Whimsical art with a serious message

"Tiger Paws" by artist Gerry Claude, corner of Carrollton and St. Charles Ave.

For a city accustomed to Lucky Dogs, the luckiest dogs of all may be the brightly colored Mardi Gras Bead Dog statues that are popping up all over town. Lucky for animal lovers and art lovers, at least.

The whimsical sculptures are modeled after the trinkets fashioned from leftover Mardi Gras beads by generations of Louisiana schoolchildren.

Paws on Parade could be called the “pet project” of the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (LA/SPCA) – the group’s first foray into the realm of public art. The fundraiser is designed to raise public awareness of animal welfare, support local artists, and help beautify the community.

“A city with public art is a city that lives, breathes and barks,” according to the group’s promotional materials.

"Where Y'at Dog" by artists Caesar Meadows and Jeannie Detweiler, in front of Nacho Mama's restaurant, 1000 S. Clearview Pkwy.

“It’s whimsical, it’s fun, I think it really speaks to the culture of New Orleans and how we approach everything,” says Katherine LeBlanc, communications director for LA/SPCA. “But we’re also talking about a serious issue, animal welfare, and the fact that we have thousands of homeless, unwanted, abandoned animals that come into the Louisiana SPCA every year.”

“We like to say that we’re the voice for the voiceless,” LeBlanc continues. “They [the animals] can’t ask for help. They can’t walk up to us and say, ‘my leg hurts, please take me to the hospital.’ We have to do all that for them.”

Louisiana SPCA is the oldest and largest animal welfare organization in Louisiana. As a 501 (c) 3, private, non-profit organization, it depends on community support to offer its many services, which include low-cost veterinary services, micro-chipping, spay/neuter programs, pet adoptions, education and pet obedience classes.

For Paws on Parade, the LA/SPCA sent out a call to artists, and received more than 100 sketches in response. The statues were cast from a white resin, using a mold donated by Haydel’s Bakery, then turned over to the selected artists for decorating. After painting, the sculptures were clear-coated to protect the finish.

Over 45 sponsors have committed to the project, and sponsorships are still available. The creatively-named levels of support start at “Salvador Doggy” (a $3,000 sponsorship), then “Paw-Casso” ($5,000), and finally, “Ren-Woof” ($7,000, at which level the sponsor gets to keep the sculpture at the end of the installation). The statues will be on display throughout Orleans and Jefferson Parishes until September 30, after which they will be auctioned off at LA/SPCA’s Howling Success Gala in November.

Last year, LA/SPCA took in more than 7,000 unwanted, abused, or neglected animals, and found homes for more than 1,600 of them. So when you see one of the bright Paws on Parade bead dog sculptures around town, the organization hopes that maybe you’ll smile, and think about ways you could help.

“We did this for the animals of our community,” says LA/SPCA’s LeBlanc. “Because what they need is our help. Every dollar, every sponsorship, every conversation that’s started because of this project is going to benefit the community of animals that we have in New Orleans.”

The essentials:

Louisiana SPCA

1700 Mardi Gras Blvd.

New Orleans, LA 70114


More information/map with sculpture locations:

Glen Abbott offers a look at Paws on Parade bead canines around town in the slideshow below.

Glen Abbott is a New Orleans-based freelance travel writer/photographer who writes about local icons for NolaVie. Visit his blog at For more information about NolaVie, go to

















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