The internet has a cat-astrophe on its hands. After four successful years, the Internet Cat Video Festival, an annual celebration of cat videos, posters and photos in Minnesota that attracted cat lovers across the globe, is ending its run. The Minneapolis event, hosted by the Walker Art Center, is turning over its cat memorabilia to the Minnesota Historical Society, home to Prince’s “Purple Rain” outfit.
“We think that cat videos will live on without us, and we’re really excited for other people to take up the mantle and program their own festivals,” Emmet Byrne, the Walker’s design director, told the Star Tribune this week.
The festival was written up in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Cat Fancy and Time magazine, and got air time on Japanese television, Australian talk shows, NPR and CNN. Copycat events opened in Chicago, Oakland and Portland. It's notable guests over the years have included Grumpy Cat, Lil Bub, Pudge, and Henri, aka “Le Chat Noir,” who won the festival’s first Golden Kitty award.
— Star Tribune (@StarTribune) March 11, 2016
“Anything that can inspire 13,000 Minnesotans to gather around a topic is of interest to us,” Lory Sutton, chief marketing officer at the Historical Society, told the Star Tribune. “For us, history isn’t just about what happened 100 years ago. It’s really about what’s happening today in Minnesota, and the cat video festival is a homegrown Minnesota phenomenon that reached the whole world.”
The festival began in 2012 with a simple invitation to the public to watch cat videos on a hillside next to the museum. Roughly 10,000 people showed up for the free event, with many feline fans wearing whiskers and cat-themed T-shirts. The crowd watched 79 cat videos that night.
Each year, the Internet Cat Video Festival draws huge crowds to Minnesota. http://t.co/vKmLxDzgia
— Exclusively Cats Vet (@ExclusivelyCats) August 25, 2015
— Cheri F McGuire (@CheriFMcGuire) August 18, 2015
— Chris Egert (@cegertKSTP) March 11, 2016
The frenzy was in step with the untamed popularity of cat videos and newsletters online. The Pew Research Center found last year that about 45 percent of the people uploading videos to the Internet uploaded footage of a cat or another pet, more than any other content.
Indiana University’s Jessica Gall Myrick studied the phenomenon last year in a paper titled, “Emotion regulation, procrastination and watching cat videos online: Who watches Internet cats, why, and to what effect?” She concluded: “A lot of people responded that videos made them feel better, happier, more content, more energized, less anxious, less angry, less depleted, less tired.”
“The festival was always an experiment,” Byrne said. “We wondered if it’s possible to translate an online phenomenon into a real-life experience. It surprised us how popular it was.”
The event grew so large it was eventually moved to the Saints’ stadium in downtown St. Paul and began charging $10 a ticket.
— City Pages (@citypages) March 11, 2016
These days, however, Walker Art Center officials said they are ready to move on. The contemporary art museums includes exhibitions featuring images of destroyed pianos, Edward Hopper’s Office at Night and Chuck Close’s Big Self-Portrait.
“We’re going out on top with a 13,000 crowd last year. It’s time for us to try new things, that’s our mission and part of our DNA,” spokesperson Rachel Joyce told local reporters.