Dog lady

Landess Witmer

Photo/Sage Leehey

July 20 is the 14th annual Art Paws event. It's tailored to people with pets and is a dog-friendly Artown event. Landess Witmer is the host and has recently added two Underdog Grants to her event. All proceeds from the event are split between the beneficiaries of these two grants and the people's choice award. The application can be found at and is due by May 20.

You’ve been doing Art Paws for a while now?

Yes, yes. This will be our 14th year, and it is set for Sunday, July 20. We’re very excited because in our 15th year we have a goal of $15,000 to give back to the community. So that’s going to be a big goal. So we’re trying to rev up to it next year.

What’s your favorite part of Art Paws?

Probably the people’s choice. I think we’re the only event that I know of that you can vote, and your vote helps determine who gets the money. And I think that’s really cool. We’ve done that for many years, and this is the first year that we’ve decided that we’ll award one people’s choice grant from the popular votes at our event and we would award two needy, what we call the Underdog Grant to non-profits that apply online. … I thought it was interesting because I wanted to name this the Underdog Grant, but underdog means different things to different people. If you look it up, it has many different meanings, and one of them is perfect to somebody who is almost disenfranchised. And what we thought is that the people’s choice went for bigger groups, and there are lots of little groups that are doing amazing things. So now two-thirds of all the money from Art Paws will go to the little groups. It will go to two different groups within a 75-mile radius of Reno that help animals, and then we’ll still have the people’s choice.

What prompted that change?

Well, I guess just knowing some really great little groups and wanting to help them but not knowing how to. I am not on the grant committee. Neither is Michelle, our event coordinator. No one that’s affiliated [is], not even one of our volunteers. We have a separate group that’s being set up just for the grant committee. But yeah, I did have some non-profits in mind when I was making this, and I’ve made sure that they get to apply. And it’s the first year. Next year we’ll promote it more and give them more time to do it. But we wanted to not skip this year. It was that important.

How are you determining who gets the grants?

We’re really looking at need. We’re looking at how they’ll actually use the money. And we also have one of our grading categories as which one do you feel the most for, which I think is really cool because they may not be able to put things in words as well as somebody else, but they will be given points on having a great idea and doing good things with their money. Also, one of the things that’s important is do they use volunteers? … Volunteers are extremely valuable, and the more you use, the more your cause or event can grow. So I’d like to remind people that you’re not alone. There’s a lot of good people out there who want to help you. … We’re really looking at new groups, too. It doesn’t have to be a group that’s been doing it for years.