Who let the dogs out in Ridgefield? Statues meant to raise funds for organization

Ridgefield has let the dogs out, but they’re not barking or scratching. Instead, they’re catching the eye of passersby with their capes and gems while preparing to be sold to the highest bidder.

The statues popping up all over town are part of a community-wide fundraiser taking place all summer long called the Bow WOW Art Dogs. The fundraiser, coordinated by the Artful Visual Arts Initiative non-profit, connected community sponsors with artists to create the dogs and raise money for the initiative, ROAR Animal Rescue, and the Ridgefield Guild of Artists.

John Pambianchi, owner of Pamby Motors and a participating sponsor, has a Great Dane named Road Trip stationed outside of his business. Road Trip is a silver pup covered in markers designating different stops along Route 66.

“It attracted a lot of attention at our place,” he said. “There’s always someone looking at them. They look nice around town.”

From Great Danes to Labrador Retrievers and more, these pups are being given a fun debut on Main Street and social media as people have taken to posting about them.

There are about 23 statues on display around town, each sculpted with a different personality and QR code that when opened, leads people to a silent auction. Ridgefielders and those beyond the town limits are bidding for these dogs, but have to keep at it until mid-September if they really want to take their favorite home.

While people can put in bids all summer, the winners won’t be announced until Sept. 25 during a final bidding ceremony at the Aldrich Contemporary Arts Museum with drinks and hors d'oeuvres, according to Dee Dee Colabella, President of AVAI.

And those who take a photo with a pooch and tag Artful on Facebook or Instagram are entered into a sweepstake for a shot at winning one of the sitting Labrador Retrievers.

Colabella was looking for a way to engage artists and the community when she first started the non-profit in 2020. Inspired by similar public art displays in other cities such as New York, Chicago and Houston, she decided to bring something comparable but personable to Ridgefield.

“We chose dogs because if you’ve ever walked up and down the streets of Ridgefield, there’s dogs everywhere,” she said. “It’s a very dog-centric town.”

But as the pandemic would have it, her brainchild would be pushed back a year until 2021. Though it “worked out” for the organization, Colabella said.

As people started finding their way outside, they were now greeted by the colorful dogs.

Colabella personally painted the Bob Ross-themed pooch that boasts a bright paint palette and large hair. But there are plenty of others including a retro dog standing tall by First Selectman Rudy Marconi’s home and a pair of super dogs.

Pam Stoddart, executive director of the Ridgefield Guild of Artists, said the guild sponsored the wonder dog that was collaboratively painted and embellished with mosaic tiles by about 10 different artists.

The wonder dog was installed beside its super dog companion — sponsored by Sturges Brothers Inc. — in front of the Fairfield County Bank.

“We loved coming up with the theme and we loved making them,” Stoddart said.

“I think the town has really embraced them, they love them.”