At Bark & Co, we’re all about elevating the dog. We will cook our dogs gourmet meals while we eat frozen pizza, we will be behind on our rent so we can spoil our pup, and yes, we will drive the car around the block two times a day because our exercise-averse dog only moves if he thinks he’s chasing you. True story.
To help reflect our pooch ruv, a few weeks back, Bark & Co. made its already amazing HQ just a little more pawsome. Since the company first moved into its new space in Chinatown, there had always been a dream: bring interesting, dog-centric art to the office that celebrates the glory of dogdom cleverly and creatively. And in August, we did just that.
It was important that we kicked off our BarkArt initiative with a pawrtist who both shared in our vision of celebrating dogs as equal, and had the same passion and slobbering adoration for pups as we do. With the help of NYC start up Uprise Art, which works to bring original art pieces to offices and homes, we found the wonderful Christina Watka (more here) who created the customized installation “43 Barks,” for us.
A self-proclaimed pup-lover, Christina rescued her dog, Boomer, from Unleashed NY a year ago. As a dog parent, she revels in Boomer’s fondness for “pepperoni, bully sticks…trash and us”– and also taught him to say “I love you”, though it comes out more affectionately as “roow ruh roo.”
Christina designed “43 Barks” around two things: “the dog’s original toy: a stick” and the dogs and people that make up the Bark & Co. pack. She often deals with space, repetition and multiples in her art, and remarked during her brainstorming that she “tried to think like a dog. Material: sticks! Color: lots of it! Composition: grid! Simple!” Using a variety of carefully chosen branches that she found herself, her vision was to pair each with the personalities of the Bark & Co employees and their dogs. The result? A colorful grid of sticks, each meticulously curated using paint, accessories, quirky shapes and quotes.
It was also important to us that our first installation reflect the value we have for our employees – we’re a bunch of dog-lovin’ hoomans with thick skins and big hearts who work to keep dogs happy. Christina shared in our hope of piecing together an installation that could embody our employees, our love of dogs, and could “nurture a creative space where people imagine great things for dogs.” When the display made its debut, each employee flooded into the office and searched to find his or her (or dog’s) name-tag and see their pawsonlized representation. It was like an exciting visual word search.
Per Christina’s inspiration, everyone at Bark & Co had privately responded to a questionnaire as either their dog(s) or (if dog less) themselves, answering questions like “are you a lady or not?”, “what makes you go crazy?” and “are you hungry right now?”
From there, Christina chose her favorite features to encapsulate each dog/person. Sticks varied from the tiny to the extra large, and were then specifically tailored and finalized with a labeled dog tag. When asked how Christina picked the defining features of each stick, she responded, “some people just feel green to me, you know?”
She did have a few favorites:
Cricket Bean, Bark & Co.’s resident blind #dramaqueen
Sawyer’s favorite word, displayed over his stick reads: “AAWWWWSAWYERWHOSAGOODBOY?”
And adorable black lab Mitch’s had answers that brought to Christina’s mind an oversized parrot towering over five horses. She would later learn from Mitch’s hooman that it was perfect considering “Laundromat Parrot is [Mitch’s] personal God. Sometimes, things just work out”.
Christina put it best: “Every stick (or dog) plays an important role. I love that. It feels so true to Bark & Co.’s values as a company. This piece was built for dogs to love and enjoy, and made complete by a team of dog-loving humans (including me).”
This will hopefully be the first of many rotating dog art pieces with Uprise Art in the Bark & Co. office – and high paws to Christina for inaugurating our BarkArt program pawfectly.