You may not know Anna Hamilton, but if you’ve set foot anywhere in downtown Dunedin during the past 12 years, you know her work.
She has arguably created Dunedin’s most ambitious and iconic murals and talking pieces: “Dogedin”– that rollicking landscape of seemingly hundreds of doe-eyed dogs on top of dogs, on top of more dogs immortalized on the outside walls and façades of downtown businesses including Skip's Bar & Grill and Stirling Tropical Wines.
"I never expected it to turn out like this," Hamilton said. "It grew legs and ran away from me.”
Hamilton obtained an associate’s degree in fine arts from Sage College in Albany, N.Y., and has been painting since childhood. She's been painting murals around Dunedin for the past 12 years. Hamilton's also got work on the walls at Flanagan's Irish Pub, Casa Tina, Eddie's Bar and Grill and Got Wine.
Now a full-time artist, she has always been connected to art in some creative form or another. Family members and cousins on her father’s side practice art ranging from painting to writing to music. Her art career began with doing portraits and murals for kids "anywhere that needed paint," she said.
Hamilton started as server at Flanagan's Irish Pub when she first moved to Dunedin. There, she met several people through whom she ended up painting the mural inside the bar. More opportunity opened for her as people, including Skip French, the owner of Skip’s Bar on the corner of Main Street and Douglas Avenue, became familiar with her work. It may seem like all she wrote once she started doing murals for French, as his outside wall is the nexus of the whole Dogedin project, but it’s really just the beginning. (She eventually added 30 or so pups to Dogedin on the façade of Sterling Winery.)
French donated the outside wall of Skip’s facing Douglas Avenue after the two came up with the mural concept as a way to raise money for Dunedin Doggie Rescue, a grassroots non-profit network of dog fosterers. Pet owners could donate to Dunedin Doggie Rescue to have their deceased pet memorialized on Skip’s wall. Hamilton met with each donator and heard stories, some of them very sad, about their dog or pet before it went on the wall.
"It was a period in their life when the pet meant so much to them," she said.
She worked from more than 500 photographs. To date, she’s painted about 400 Dogedin pups and helped raise about $3,000. The success of her Dogedin project has borne life to another big mural concept – she could take her show on the road and raise money for other non-profits. So to keep the philanthropic spirit of Dogedin alive, she and Managing Director Dawn S. Carney recently created a non-profit of their own called Murals for Mutts (the official website may still be under construction). Their new endeavor shall benefit individuals who are in distress and cannot pay for pet expenses. Since launching Murals for Mutts in October 2010, Hamilton is hoping that her doe-eyed dog portraits will start popping up in other towns -- all for a good cause.
Hamilton's mural prices range from $300 to $1,000.