DECATUR — The steamroller in front of Millikin University’s Blue Connection on Friday evening had nothing to do with the massive overhaul of Central Park.
Indeed, operator Phil Taylor of B&W Asphalt Paving was working with entirely unfamiliar media: pressing inked woodcuts of adoptable cats and dogs into 30-by-40-inch pieces of muslin. The resulting cloth prints were hung inside the gallery, with all proceeds from their sale benefiting the Decatur & Macon County Animal Shelter Foundation.
Public spectacle was only a portion of the first-ever Paws for a Cause, staged Friday by Millikin’s Carriage House Press, a business and an upper-level print-making class.
Next door in the Madden Art Center, a silent auction of smaller, framed pet prints took up a corner of the Anne Lloyd Gallery, and on the second floor, traditional woodcut printing was demonstrated. Dogs available for adoption from the Macon County Animal Control and Care Center, escorted by volunteers, roamed throughout.
Jamie Muscato, a foundation board member, said she was relieved the weather worked out and praised the student-run printing business for pulling the event off. “It’s wonderful,” she said. “We’re seeing what happens with it, then maybe next year we can improve upon it.”
Associate art professor Lyle Salmi, who owns three dogs adopted from the shelter, said he wanted his students to experience the impact and connections they could make in the community.
“I’m directing traffic here,” he said with a smile. “The wind is giving us a bit of a problem. That’s why we’re taping the fabric down onto the plates.”
Amanda Sagan, a senior from Geneva who is majoring in graphic design, was inking up the oversized woodcuts created by the students. She said she was pleased many of the wood cuts were made from photographs she took at the shelter.
Ellen Hoffman of Naperville, a senior majoring in studio art, created a realistic image of a cat looking up at its visitor. “I have a dog at home, but I mostly feed the stray cats in the backyard,” she said.
Upstairs, meanwhile, junior Michael Shultz demonstrated hand-burnished printing on paper.
“Wood block, traditional prints were made before the printing press was available,” said Shultz, a Geneva native majoring in studio art. “The key is a lot of rubbing, a lot of pressure and a little bit of time.”