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How a Wandering Cat Became a Work of Art

Photo: Hannah Eaton.
Photo: Hannah Eaton.
Photo: Hannah Eaton.
Photo: Hannah Eaton.
Photo: Courtney Rose Brown.
Photo: Courtney Rose Brown.
Photo: Courtney Rose Brown.
Photo: Courtney Rose Brown.
Photo: Courtney Rose Brown.
Photo: Courtney Rose Brown.
Photo: Courtney Rose Brown.
Does an internet famous feline deserve its own museum exhibition? A non-believer heads along to find out.

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I need to get this clear, right off the bat. I’m not a cat person. Controversial, I know. 

But Mittens is not so much a cat as he is a cult phenomenon. He’s created an almost mythical response,  even nominated for New Zealander of the Year. You know, along with humans. His presence in Wellington has even provoked its very own Facebook group, The Wondrous Adventures of Mittens.

The group is for sightings of Mittens roaming about the Capital, cute selfies with Mittens himself, great memes and since lockdown, some truly stunning pieces of fan art. Yep, pet fan art is a thing. Once he joined such national treasures as Sir Peter Jackson and Sir Richard Taylor by receiving the Key to the freakin’ City by the Mayor (don’t worry it only cost $14.83), the idea of the mini-exhibition came about.

It’s the brainchild of Krystle Spademan, the Visitor and Retail Services manager at the Wellington Museum who points out “Mittens has (over) 50,000 fans on his Facebook page and only 20,000 of them are Wellingtonians.” Her idea was executed in the hope that it would bring more people to the exhibition and Wellington in general. 

Photo: Hannah Eaton.

I’ll be honest, I mainly went because my girlfriend wanted to go. I just wanted to hit my step count. But Mittens - Floofy and Famous, caught me off-guard is one of the most charming exhibitions I’ve even been to.

Photo: Courtney Rose Brown.

The stand-out part of it is the collection is undoubtedly the framed fan art on the walls, which ranges from art by young children, paint art on toast, to a stunning portrait of Mittens as a decorated soldier. After spending so much time on the internet during lockdown, it’s really nice to see art “in the flesh” and to see how everyone in the room brightened as soon as they came in.

Photo: Courtney Rose Brown.

Alongside the exhibition is the Mittens endorsed ‘The Pet Project Workshop’ which is sweetness personified. There’s a monthly timetable for programmes, events and activities, including storytime, zine-making (where you can make a zine for your own furry friends), speakers from the SPCA, Wellington City Council, a dress-up box (where you can dress up as your fav animal), and a wall for people to draw in their own pets to add to the gallery. I particularly enjoy that my friend made the stop to draw her cats Yorick and Hamlet so they’re on the wall (as they rightly deserve, she’d say). 

Photo: Courtney Rose Brown.

The fact that there’s a glass display case “with his at-home valuables” which includes his key to the city, his favourite crystal cup to drink from and his grooming brush, helps show off a fun, playful side to art that encourages all to join in and share their love for animals. Yep, it’s charming enough to turn a dog person into a cat person.

Photo: Hannah Eaton.

For those of you who get hit by the Seasonal affective disorder, take Vitamin D daily and head on over to Mittens - Floofy and Famous at the Wellington Museum to keep you going through winter. 

If you head along, don’t forget to bring a few cans to donate to the SPCA and get your photo taken at the photo booth - 20% of Mittens merchandise sales goes to the SPCA as well. As a hot tip, merchandise sold out on opening, so you can order online to be on the waitlist. I type this, a little bit smug drinking my morning coffee out of a Mittens mug.

 

Photo: Hannah Eaton.

 

Written by

Courtney Rose Brown

19 Aug 2020

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