Lawrence Arts Center asks public to help ‘Feed the Guinea Pigs’ in fundraiser for classroom pets

Lawrence Arts Center kindergartener Oscar Lang feeds Gus the guinea pig Tuesday at the Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St., while his classmates, joined by teacher Becky Rogers, look on. The Arts Center is selling tote bags to cover the costs of its preschool and kindergarten classroom pets, Gus and Sylvie the guinea pigs, as part of its recently launched Feed

Gus and Sylvie, the guinea pigs who have taken up permanent residence at the Lawrence Arts Center’s preschool and kindergarten classrooms, provide truly priceless learning opportunities for students, says Linda Reimond, the Arts Center’s preschool director.

But Reimond, like any pet owner, knows all too well that the cute and cuddly critters aren’t really priceless — at least not in the literal sense.

“They’re not inexpensive to keep,” says Reimond, who estimates that the Arts Center spends about $50 a month on food and other necessities for the guinea pigs, and that’s with assistance from a federal grant and local sponsors.

To cope with costs, Reimond and her colleagues have launched a fittingly cute fundraising campaign that asks community members to “Feed the Guinea Pigs.” In exchange for a suggested donation of $20, patrons receive a tote bag emblazoned with the pint-sized pair’s likeness.

The bags are the brainchild of Arts School preschool teacher Kim Rack, who produced a sketch of the guinea pigs before enlisting the help of printmaking artist-in-residence Tressa Jones. Each “Feed the Guinea Pig” tote has been printed on-site in the Arts Center’s recently renovated printmaking studios, Reimond says.

Gus and Sylvie teach personal responsibility and provide comfort to young children still acclimating to school, among other invaluable lessons, Reimond says. The kids take turns feeding them, sometimes with parsley and lettuce harvested from the Arts Center’s garden, each day.

“It’s part of the learning process,” Reimond says of the lessons imparted to students. “How we can help sustain them is by having a garden.”

Of course, the Arts Center’s small outdoor plot isn’t enough to sustain two hungry guinea pigs year-round. Reimond and her colleagues already receive help from the national Pets in the Classroom grant program, but that funding, limited to $50 per year, only covers about a month’s worth of food and supplies.

Lawrence’s Pet World store also awards discounts to Arts Center teachers, but still, even with the help, it’s a challenge to keep the guinea pigs without digging into other funds, Reimond says.

Miss Linda has cute totes ready for her Feed the Guinea Pigs campaign! Purchase one of these adorable $20 bags designed…

Posted by Lawrence Arts Center on Tuesday, November 15, 2016

She’s hoping to raise about $600 — the approximate annual costs of caring for Gus and Slyvie — through the “Feed the Guinea Pigs” campaign, and she needs the community’s help to make it happen.

And within the first week of the campaign, Arts Center staffers have already sold all 25 bags in their first batch. Reimond expects to have a new order ready after Thanksgiving.

The pets, she says, aren’t merely cute additions to Arts Center classrooms. They’ve been there for years, and, joining the team as youngsters, have lived most of their lives (Sylvie is 6; Gus is celebrating his third birthday in January) at the Arts Center.

“Gus would get on top of his house as the children came in, and he would just squeak and squeak and squeak like he was welcoming them into the classroom,” Reimond recalls of the guinea pig’s younger days.

For children who might feel nervous or scared about starting school, it’s a small act that can make a big difference, Reimond says.

At this point, “they’re just part of the class,” she says of Gus and Sylvie. And she’s hoping to keep them around for a long time yet.

Reimond encourages anyone interested in purchasing a “Feed the Guinea Pigs” bag to contact her at 843-2787 or