SM East grad’s cartoon cat comes to Prairie Village with coffeehouse display

Julie Tenenbaum with one of her Benny the Cat canvases.

By Mary Jo Draper,

If Prairie Village lacks major art museums, it is a great place for small, one person shows. Take, for example, the exhibit of needlework by Julie Tenenbaum — a Fairway native and SM East grad — is displaying at the Prairie Village Starbucks this month.

One of the works currently on display at the PV Starbucks.

A few years ago, Tenenbaum started embroidering a series of cat faces, and she and her friends really enjoyed what she created. A friend suggested Tenenbaum show her work, and after some initial hesitation, she approached the Johnson County Library to see if they would be interested in a show. They were. Since October of 2011, Benny has hung on walls across the metro area, but this is his first trip to PV.

Tenenbaum hopes someday to make a few dollars from her art work, but in the meantime, she prefers to have Benny “out in the world. I want people to get a lift when they see him,” she says. “

Tenenbaum calls herself a “late bloomer” when it comes to her embroidery work. She was, she says, “well into my 50s when I began to create with needle and thread.” Now she’s constantly busy creating new “Bennies,” stitched canvases showing the cat engaged in various activities, and she’s constantly looking for new places Benny can be seen by others.

“People have said they are inspired by Benny. They think he’s very colorful and fun. They’re impressed by the details, and he brings back memories of a mom who did embroidery or a grandmother who used to quilt.”

As Benny makes the rounds, Tenenbaum is looking into licensing him and sharing him with an even larger world. He could show up on mugs, t-shirts and elsewhere. But in the meantime, Tenenbaum enjoys seeing Benny at shows like the current one at Starbucks which runs through the end of September.

“I love sitting in a coffeehouse and seeing someone go up and look at my work,” she says. “If I’m with a friend, sometimes they’ll say ‘This is the artist,” and it’s a little embarrassing, but it’s nice.”

To see all the Bennies and Tenenbaum’s other works, visit her website,