A local artist is using her craft to engage seniors in the arts while helping local shelter pets find their forever home.
For nearly four years, Paws With Cause owner Alix Frazier has encouraged local seniors to express themselves creatively through painting sketches of homeless animals. The outreach project aims to encourage people to adopt senior shelter animals when looking for a four-legged family member. The project also raises money for local shelters by selling portraits painted by seniors.
On Nov. 11, Frazier brought her supplies to Lynnwood’s Fairwinds – Brighton Court retirement community, where she helped residents put brush to canvas to create portraits of cats and dogs in need of homes. During that time, she also helped one resident search for a dog to adopt.
Frazier, a Lake Stevens tech executive, began teaching herself how to paint and draw after her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She said she wanted to create memories with her mother and the activity was a way for them to bond. After her mother’s death, Frazier said she wanted to continue the work that she said had given her mother a purpose.
“When she passed, I had this big hole in my heart and wanted to keep hanging out with people that I liked,” she said.
After seeing a Facebook post about two shelter animals that needed money for surgery, Frazier donated two paintings of the animals to the shelter to spread awareness about the surgeries. Since then, Frazier has continued to help spread awareness for shelter animals through her work with seniors.
Since the project began in 2016 at Everett’s Garden Court Retirement Community, Paws With Cause has expanded its reach to include 10 retirement communities. Frazier now has a team of 14 volunteers that help sketch 170-200 portraits of shelter animals each month. Recently, the project has been its way to Seattle.
“It just grew and grew and grew,” she said.
According to Frazier, Paws With Case is continuing to grow. The project has received interest from other states, including Pennsylvania, California, New York and Texas. Recently, Paws With Cause was designated a federally-registered nonprofit charitable organization, which Frazier said will allow her to receive sponsorships. However, in spite of the national interest in her work, Frazier said she doesn’t plan on biting off more than she can chew and will continue to expand at a comfortable pace.
“I don’t want it to get to the place where I can’t support it and ensure that we keep the highest possible ethics throughout the whole thing,” she said. “There’s people’s money and animals’ lives involved here, so I always want it to be the highest possible ethics.”
After presenting to companies like Hewlett-Packard and Amazon, Frazier said she has not yet managed to receive corporate sponsorship. However, she remains optimistic.
“They will come around as they come around,” she said.
Until then, Frazier said she is offering potential sponsors the opportunity to start small by advertising on the back of color book pages featuring shelter pets.
In addition to visiting retirement communities, Frazier has a studio in the Everett Mall where she hosts sessions on the fourth Wednesday and first Saturday of each month. She also recently partnered with the Girl Scouts to create a Paws With Cause badge that was approved by the organization’s council.
Paws With Cause portraits have been displayed in 28 public spaces, including veterinarian offices, restaurants, physical therapy offices and the Snohomish County Courthouse Plaza. Frazier said the portraits have also been featured at the Lynnwood 44th Avenue West Fred Meyer (in the hallway near the restroom) — which she calls a “hallway gallery” — where they are seen by 350-500 people each day. Some portraits were also featured in Lynnwood City Hall this fall.
Frazier is not only interested in engaging seniors in participating. She recently attended the Lynnwood Arts Commission’s State of the Arts event in hopes of partnering with the City of Lynnwood or other local agencies for a community art project. Frazier said she would like to install a large interactive art project in a public space like Heritage Park or outside the Alderwood Boys and Girls Club, where kids could use magnets or velcro pieces to create an art piece.
“They could just switch it out like a Mr. Potato Head,” she said. “I would love to see that.”
Donations to Paws With Cause can be made on Facebook or the project’s website. Frazier said 85% of donations received go directly to shelters and the other 15% will be saved to fund a mobile veterinarian units in impoverished areas.