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Davis, California

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Community helps create new cat sculpture

ROSIE SCHWARZ / AGGIE
ROSIE SCHWARZ / AGGIE

New Calico Cat sculpture being built next to Roy the Dog in Downtown Davis

John Natsoulas, local artist and owner of the John Natsoulas Art Gallery, located at 521 First St. in Downtown Davis, has helped create over 40 pieces of artwork across Davis and is an avid supporter of its art scene. Natsoulas is perhaps best known for helping create the Roy the Dog sculpture which is located outside the gallery, and is now embarking on an ambitious project to create a neighboring Calico Cat sculpture.

Natsoulas’ art projects are based around community building and are part of a larger project of creating the Davis Transmedia Art Walk, the world’s first interactive art walk. Each art piece has a chip inside it and, using Near Field Technology (NFC), visitors can watch videos about the construction of the art work by placing their phone near it.

Fusing art and technology, Natsoulas is passionate about making art more accessible and bringing it to a younger audience. His tactic seems to be working and his gallery has over 16,000 likes on Facebook, more than the Arboretum and the Davis Farmers Market. Natsoulas also points out that the Transmedia Art Walk has become one of Davis’ top attractions for visitors. The artist is also keen to involve the local community, and the Calico Cat will be no exception.

“What’s different about what we’re doing is that we invite anybody to come; we don’t care if you have any skill, no skill, on all of our art. On Saturday, we’ll have some high school kids, some college kids and they’ll come and they’ll help us and […] it’s not even close to being done. These are all projects that we did at no cost to anybody in the community, these [pieces are all] community projects that were done with our community [and] with our team,” Natsoulas said.

The concept for the sculpture came about as a tribute to Natsoulas’ mentor and Natsoulas has been happy to cover its costs due to its community building benefits.

“When you’re doing something organic, you just let it happen you don’t say ‘I don’t want to do this,’ you say, ‘do it’ […] I had a father and a son, maybe 9 years old, they worked on a piece of [the cat] and they came back and they said ‘we did that’. It’s rewarding,” Natsoulas said.

Like all art, the Calico Cat and Roy the Dog sculptures are subjective and Dimitri Degtyarev, a first year computer science and engineering student at UC Davis, is not a fan of either.

“I think [the dog statue] looks stupid, I think it’s too colorful and kind of out of place. [The cat statue] is also not that good,” Degtyarev said.

However, many do not share Degtyarev’s opinion and Brie Cavalli, a visiting high school student from Napa High School, thinks that the sculptures add to Davis’ charm and she appreciates them.

“I think [building the cat] would be a good idea, I like cats and dogs and I think it would look cool there, [the sculpture] looks really nice,” Cavalli said.

While Natsoulas is extremely passionate about all the art projects that he embarks on, involving the local community is paramount to his vision. He feels that art has become too consumerist and he is intent in making sure that everyone is able to participate in the new creation.  

While Calico Cat remains under construction, it can be seen outside the John Natsoulas Gallery and to help with construction, visit the gallery Saturdays from 12:00-5:00 p.m. to help create the statue. To find out more about the Davis Transmedia Art Walk visit http://davisartwalk.com/ and for more information on the John Natsoulas Gallery visit http://natsoulas.com/.

Written by: Juno Bhardwaj-Shah — city@theaggie.org

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