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The Cat Art Show creator wants to make SXSW for cats




Susan Michals created Cat Art Show, now on display at the Think Tank Art Gallery through Sunday, March 27th.
Susan Michals created Cat Art Show, now on display at the Think Tank Art Gallery through Sunday, March 27th.
Leo Duran/KPCC

Susan Michals is a journalist. Was a journalist, actually, before cats took over her life.

"According to the L.A. Times, I'm the cat lady of the art world," she beams.

Michals is the mastermind behind the Cat Art Show, taking place this weekend at the Think Tank Art Gallery in downtown L.A.

But it's not tacky Holly Hobbie art: it's more like if the Broad Museum had cats.

"There is some art that's definitely kitschy, but the whole goal was to have a wide spectrum of art," she says. "Those people that are doing the cat fancy show are the old guard. My whole thing is that you can be chic, stylish and have a cat simultaneously."

Featured artists include luminaries like Mark Ryden, who has also shown at the internationally prestigious Art Basel art fair in Miami. She curated her picks from the art world, various submissions and her own scans of artists on the Internet.

Patrons walk through a crowded Think Tank Art Gallery for the opening reception of Cat Art Show, on display through Sunday, March 27th.
Patrons walk through a crowded Think Tank Art Gallery for the opening reception of Cat Art Show, on display through Sunday, March 27th.
Leo Duran/KPCC

"The cat is a muse," she says, "anything from your companion, your frienemy, your archrival or your cuddle bunny."

The 2016 Cat Art Show is the sequel to the original outing in 2014, when lines snaked around the block for a chance to view and buy the art. This year's selections are for purchase with prices topping out at $35,000.

But Michals says there's a reason she skipped 2015: financial backers were fraidy cats about helping the event.

"I think it was too niche for a mainstream sponsor," she says. 

Her profile zoomed after creating CatConLA, however, a celebration of everything cat held in downtown L.A. last June.

The success of that provided here with enough money to put on cat-related events in L.A. full-time. 

"When you say the word 'cat' it conjures up cat lady," she says, "but there's a nouveau cat lady that's coming to the forefront: the Katy Perrys and Taylor Swifts of the world."

That's where Cat Art Show and CatConLA fit in – to change those perceptions.

Michals is also partnering with the new CatVideoFest (formerly the Internet Cat Video Festival) as it transitions to L.A.

Her grand plan is to eventually merge these three events into a single weekend that lasts three or four days by 2017 – "It'll be like SXSW for cats" – making her L.A.'s head cat lady.

"It will be a cat-stravaganza!"

The Cat Art Show is open through Sunday, March 27 from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m at Think Tank Art Gallery at 939 Maple Ave., Los Angeles.

CatConLA and the CatVideoFest will be held in conjunction starting June 25 and 26th. CatConLA will be at the Reef while CatVideoFest takes place at the Theatre at the Ace Hotel, both in downtown L.A. Passes are on sale now.