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Best Gallery Cat

Photo by Athena Delene
Photo by Athena Delene

Have you seen that bronze, no, Creamsicle Adonis, strutting down Broadway, making all the passersby swoon? Some even pat his head or ruffle his belly. His name is Tonto, and he’s the king of downtown. Three humans — Jason Pancoast, Elizabeth Fraser-Paul and Taylor Jones — ostensibly own and run the fantastic Shadowfox art gallery and newly relocated Perk coffeehouse, but it’s pretty clear that Tonto is in charge. Unlike many galleries that feel cold and standoffish, he is a warm host, welcoming gallery-goers with a soft nudge or a meow of approval, making Tonto the absolute best gallery cat.

“He likes to be around people and see what’s going on,” Pancoast says.

Tonto is a Flame Point Siamese, adorably cross-eyed and armed with a sweet backstory: Years ago, when Pancoast was leaving Market of Choice in South Eugene, he encountered this kitty. “I just looked at him, touched his head and walked away,” Pancoast says. He looked back in wonder as the kitty followed him the many blocks home. “I opened the door and he sat upon the bed and was like, ‘I live here now.’”

That was seven years ago and, after Pancoast did his due diligence to make sure he wasn’t someone else’s pet, the duo have grown to be inseparable best buds. When Pancoast opened the gallery in 2015, it became Tonto’s new home because “I’m here, so he’s here,” Pancoast says.

And boy, is Tonto ever-present. At a recent Tuesday Talks — one of many new community series that Shadowfox has started recently with help from the city of Eugene — Tonto casually sashayed around as 30-plus people spoke in a circle, occasionally sauntering into the center to take a bath or climbing atop a 5-foot speaker to nap.

Pancoast says it’s just swell to pet Tonto — he especially likes it on his head and shoulders — and even pick him up, as long as you don’t disturb his butt; he doesn’t like that. Pancoast says Tonto will let you know on the rare occasion he isn’t DTC (down to cuddle).

“He’s a very chill cat unless a big dog walks by,” Pancoast adds. Small dogs don’t bother him, but if Tonto sees a big dog, he becomes a dog bouncer, shoo-ing them away from the gallery.

The gallery also recently started “Art Bar” every Wednesday night where the public is encouraged to come get creative together, working on individual art or collaborating with others.

“He’ll sit by people working on a project,” Pancoast says of Tonto.

While interviewing Pancoast about Tonto, the big cat walks up knowingly, slinking around, occasionally letting out little chirping meows, before heading out the door to the street. “He’s very independent,” Pancoast says, explaining that sometimes Tonto will seat himself on the bench of one of the Davis Restaurant’s outdoor tables as if he’s out to lunch.

As an art lover, Tonto intimated that his favorite artist is Jackson Pollock because of his use of color and the dribbles of paint that look like yarn, although Pancoast wonders outloud if his little buddy understands Pollock’s intended metaphors. The pussycat looks up at his sidekick nonplussed.

Lately, Tonto has spent more time in the basement, where Pancoast and company are building four artist studios that are slated to open in early 2017. Pancoast wants Shadowfox to be a home for artists and creatives, “a place to be.”

If it’s true what Jean Cocteau said — that cats become the visible soul of a home — then Shadowfox is in luck with the come-one, come-all spirit of Tonto.

Visit the Shadowfox gallery at 76 W. Broadway downtown or find its page on Facebook.