San Diego Festival of the Arts taps BunnyKitty creator as featured artist


Hopping and meowing her way into the hearts of San Diegans, BunnyKitty and her artist creator, Dave “Persue” Ross, will be in the spotlight at this year’s San Diego Festival of the Arts.

Ross, the official 2019 Featured Artist of this year’s festival, has a storied career in San Diego. After 25 years as an artist and designer with the local skateboard industry, he has since become known around the world for his graffiti work, which includes abstracted letters and the famous character BunnyKitty. Ross returns to San Diego, where he has a half dozen murals sprinkled around the county, from his current residence of Brooklyn and, earlier this year, his first solo exhibition in New York.

“Every year we look to showcase a unique type of guest artist or medium to offer our guests a new perspective on art, such as Silk Art Painting and a giant Chalk Art Mural in previous years,” Don Ludwig, San Diego Festival of the Arts 2019 co-chair, said about selecting a graffiti artist. “We look forward to introducing graffiti art to our guests in 2019.”

The San Diego Festival of the Arts, now in its 33rd year, will take place June 8-9 at Waterfront Park, and will include a wine and beer garden, live music, local cuisine, outdoor games and a silent auction with proceeds benefiting various adaptive programs for San Diegans with disabilities.

The inspiration for bringing in Ross came from Torrey Pines Kiwanis Board Member Patty Smith. She presented the idea after seeing the artist speak about BunnyKitty, and the creation of a book with his mother, Diane “Monny” Satenstein.

BunnyKitty was born from the artist’s common practice of painting bunnies, pigs and cats next to his graffiti pieces. One fated day, he blended two of the characters together and BunnyKitty sprang to life. Ross includes his adorable, yet tough superhero in a variety of themes in his work, often incorporating politics and local history, depending on the location of the work.

In 2002, Ross wrote the book The Origins of BunnyKitty, “a story of acceptance, rising to the occasion, and being brave.” The book features characters such as BunnyKitty and MonnyBunny, who is based on his collaborator and late mother. After languishing on his computer for more than a decade, a California publisher picked up the book in 2016. Ross, focusing on his brand, wants to reach a broad audience and envisions an expansive universe for BunnyKitty and her 28 fellow characters.

Ross credits a variety of sources for his inspiration, including his mother and grandmother, author Shel Silverstein, puppeteer Jim Henson, actor Frank Oz, and cartoonist Vaughn Bode. He looks to painters including Gustav Klimt, Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, and graffiti artists Futura and Dondi for sparking his own ingenuity.

Ross also harkens back to a journey in 1995, when the artist embarked on an international quest to explore the world of graffiti, saying: “What I saw blew me away, and propelled my personal development as an artist until now.”

More recently, Ross, channeling that development and launching a new direction in his work, took to abstract painting. According to Ross, the approach presented itself after he took a digital photo of one of his paintings.

“I zoomed in on part of the painting and found myself falling in love with the composition,” he said. “I decided to paint it as an abstract piece, and after a couple failed attempts using different techniques, I found my process. It encompasses everything I love into a new, perhaps more mature aesthetic.”

While the artist noted that the festival will focus mainly on the BunnyKitty character, he also noted there will be live painting and the possibility of getting peeks at his abstract work.

San Diego Festival of the Arts

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, June 8 and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, June 9
Where: Waterfront Park, 1600 Pacific Hwy., Embarcadero
Cost: Tickets start at $14

Writing on the wall

To get a sneak peek at Ross’ BunnyKitty, take a tour around San Diego to spot his work at the following locations around town:

South Park: Bunny Kitty with Steel and Reyes (2010) at 2209 Fern St. and BunnyKitty with DieSlow (2013) at 3111 30th St.
North Park: BunnyKitty with Trav and Ewok (2013) at University Avenue and Grim Street (north side of University) and BunnyKitty with Glow and Tatiana Suarez (2013) at University Avenue and Pershing Drive
Downtown San Diego: BunnyKitty with Glow (2018) at 11th Avenue and G Street
Pacific Beach: BunnyKitty (2015) at 4320 Mission Blvd.
Solana Beach: BunnyKitty (2019) at 646 Valley Ave. Suite A