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History of the Dr. Mari Jon Filla Student Art Exhibit & Contest

The Dr. Mari Jon Filla Student Art Exhibit & Contest was founded in the early 80’s by fellow dog fanciers Mari Jon Filla, Hazel Arnold and Rosalie Lisano out of a desire to promote student involvement in recognizing and honoring the dog, man’s best friend.  Their early efforts served to rally local area art directors to submit student artworks in what has become a highly anticipated attraction at the annual Houston World Series of Dog Shows.

With the untimely passing of Dr. Filla in 1995, Mr. Joe Campisi and Barbara Winslow joined the committee in promoting and organizing the event in honor of Mari Jon.  In the late 90’s, Barbara and her daughter, Melissa Sorley, became co-chairs and have been committed to continuing the recognition of the artful expression of the community’s students as they relay what man’s best friend means to them.

The art show started as a public school event and has evolved to include other area schools.  Since its inception, it has grown to nearly 1000 entries.  The judging panel varies each year, and includes a spectrum of enthusiasts from both the art and dog worlds.  Seven categories of awards are presented: Best in Show, Best in Grade, Commemorative Art Award, Committee Choice Awards, Excellence Awards, Merit Awards and Participation Awards.  Occasionally ‘Reserves’ are selected in the top categories to recognize additional exceptional entries.

All student entries are on display throughout the Houston World Series of Dog Shows held each July.  Top award winners and their art teachers are invited to participate in a very special awards ceremony in which they are presented to dog show attendees.  The artworks of these Awards Ceremony Qualifiers are highlighted on the official HWSDS website and many of their artworks are featured within and on the covers of the dog show catalogs.

In commemoration of the art show, the work of the Commemorative Art Award winner is printed on a T-shirt which is available for sale at the HWSDS event.  All proceeds help to support the exhibit and its contribution to the continued love and protection of The Dog – Man’s Best Friend.  


For useful information about the annual dog show event, visit the official website at

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