New Kensington art gallery features pet portraits by a former Saltsburg resident

Displaying her self-taught artistic style, former Saltsburg, Pa., native Megan Maguire Cohen brings her pet portraits to the art gallery at Penn State New Kensington for a one-month show, beginning Jan. 6. The exhibit, “Draws for Paws,” comprises watercolors of house pets.

“I try to bring the animal to life on paper. I start with their eyes because I believe the eyes say so much about the animal's personality and soul. To me, a painting just isn't right until the eyes show life and emotion.” — Meagan Cohen

“I specialize in portraits of dogs and cats and work mainly with watercolor,” said Cohen, who resides with her husband in Huntsville, Ala. “I draw from photographs and try to capture the unique personalities of each animal that I paint.”

Art and animals have always been a passion for Cohen. Her bond with animals came to the forefront in college when she found an abandoned 2-week-old kitten and nursed it back to health. The kitten, named Simba, remained with Cohen until its recent death at age 15.

“Simba taught me so much about the human animal bond,” said Cohen, a product of Saltsburg High School. “I never realized until finding him, just how strong it could be. I now dedicate all my work to him since he is the one who opened my heart and showed me how rewarding it is to rescue an animal.”

Combining her zeal for art and fervor for animals, Cohen founded “Draws for Paws,” an organization that utilizes her works to help homeless animals. She donates 10 percent of each portrait sale to an animal shelter or rescue group of the client's choice. In addition, she donates her works to local shelters for fundraising events and paints 5x7 portraits of animals up for adoption at the Ark, a rescue shelter in Huntsville.

“For me, it is so rewarding to be able to do something that I love and in the process help animals,” said Cohen, who owns three dogs and three cats. “When the animal was adopted, the family was given the portrait of their new addition.”

Animal shelters are not the only recipients of Cohen’s artistic talents. She was one of the featured artists for “The Painted Bra Art Project,” which raises money for the Liz Hurley Breast Cancer Fund. Her painted bra was based on the theme from the Disney movie “Aladdin.” It was auctioned for $65,

Cohen continues to branch out as an artist. She was selected as one of 35 local artists to paint a 6-foot tall wooden butterfly for the Huntsville Botanical Gardens exhibition and she was one of five local artists chosen to paint a fire hydrant for the Greater Huntsville Humane Society’s annual fundraising auction. Painted with another theme form a Disney movie, “Lady and the Tramp,” Cohen’s hydrant fetched the highest bid of the auction.

The exhibit at Penn State New Kensington is Cohen’s first out-of-state show. She previously exhibited in Alabama at the Sidewalk Art Stroll, Madison Arts Council’s Art 4 Paws, and Monte Sano Art Festival. She has garnered numerous awards at local competitions, including a Special Merit award at the Animals Art Competition. Several of her pet portraits are featured in the Paws for Charity art book.

In addition to painting, Cohen’s creative endeavors have expanded into jewelry design. She created her own line of necklaces, bracelets and earrings called “Megan Marie Jewelry.” Each piece is a unique design. A specialty line incorporates pet themes into the design. Some of the pet pieces will be a part of the exhibit.

Cohen holds a bachelor’s degree in consumer affairs from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She has family connections to Penn State and the New Kensington campus. Her mother, Linda Maguire, retired last year after nine years as an instructor in education at the campus. Her father, Jack Maguire and brother, Matt Maguire, earned engineering degrees from Penn State.

Many of Cohen's 30 portraits and jewelry pieces are for sale. The exhibit runs until Jan. 31, and is free to the public. An artist’s reception is set from 6-8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 3. Gallery hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and noon to 5 p.m. weekends.

“I feel incredibly honored when I am asked to paint someone's pet,” Cohen said. “It is such a joy to see how much they love their companion animal and it is very rewarding for me to see the emotions brought on by my paintings and to know that I have touched someone's heart. I'm blessed to be able to do what I do.”

For more information about the exhibit, contact Cohen at

For more about Cohen and “Draw for Paws,” visit,

For more about the jewelry line, visit


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Last Updated December 17, 2013