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A Creative Twist on Animal Welfare
New initiative helps low-income artists cover medical care for their pets.

Laura Menck doesn’t want artists to have to choose between caring for themselves or their animals. But she knows it happens all the time. Her husband, rock musician Ric Menck, is one of many artists who have gone into debt over pet care costs.

So she got together with some like-minded arts-loving, animal-welfare advocates to build a backstop against just such a problem. The Animal Care for Artists Initiative aims “to assist low-income individuals, employed in the arts, in covering the cost of medical care for their animal companions.” Artists whose income falls within California’s low-income guidelines can apply for financial assistance to cover veterinary costs including spay/neuter procedures, vaccinations and emergency care. Cosmetic procedures are not covered.

The initiative is brand new; the organization is currently testing its application and financial assistance reward process, and just starting to raise awareness and funds. “It took everything I had to get the entire 501(c) (3) process going,” Menck says. A longtime animal welfare advocate and volunteer, Menck founded the initiative while pursuing a graduate degree in nonprofit management and public policy and working as a pulmonary lab clinical research supervisor at UCLA. She and her husband have an American Bulldog named Dolly; who is featured in the organization’s logo.

“I feel—in today’s world—we need to support the arts because creative expression is needed for creative change to come about; socially and politically,” Menck says. “It’s no secret that artists, on average, make much less than people realize so they have a hard time maintaining their creative objectives and financial stability. At the same time, I want to make sure animals are spayed/neutered, healthy, and don’t end up in shelters. ”

The Animal Care for Artists Initiative kicked off a website, and Facebook and MySpace profiles in August.  “I instantly started receiving requests for assistance and offers from volunteers and donations,” Menck says. The initiative also launched a drive through Kickstarter at the end of August, which runs through October 31. “Right away, the committee chair for Los Angeles Animal Services Spay/Neuter committee donated on Kickstarter!” Pledges were up to $1,345 in the first week. “We received generous support from a couple in Nashville who are very devoted to the welfare of artists and animals in their city. That was really exciting,” Menck reports. “And entertainer Emily Volman is already on the case helping us find artists we can help in Nashville.”

It’s a grassroots, cooperative effort: A local vet provided help with the application forms, graphic designer Rob Kelly donated the logo, and local artist, Thomas Valle-Guatemala, created the website. Our first volunteer, Sarah Northcutt, is hard at work establishing contacts. In the past week we have received offers from people willing to volunteer their time and donated artwork, such as that by Denver artist Gemma Huang, for a future fundraiser to include performances by artists such as The Del Reys.

“We are getting inquiries from animal lovers and artists,” Menck continues. “That both groups seem to, overwhelmingly, appreciate the support and the uniting of the two worlds has been incredibly inspiring and compelling for me; which makes me think this will be bigger than any of us realized.”

News: Guest Posts
Party Animals
Jill Beninato celebrates dogs and artists.

The only downside to Jill Beninato’s inspired fundraising art collaboration last year was there wasn’t enough art to go around. Thirteen copies of the luscious art swap/fat book, Dogs Rule (see The Bark, September 2008), went to the participating artists and only one was auctioned for the benefit of A Place To Bark animal rescue. Well, Beninato is back—and this time she’s corralled even more dog artists to donate original work for the animal shelter and she’s found a way regular art-and-dog-appreciating folks can enjoy the art and support the cause.

This year, 20 artists, including Nancy Schutt and Anne Leuck Feldhaus, created work based on the theme, Party Animals, in the medium of their choice. Beninato photographed each and compiled them in a zine, along with articles and information about A Place To Bark. The final product is 40-plus, full-color pages (printed on demand by Lulu).

If you like the more exclusive appeal of Dogs Rule, the original artwork for Party Animals will be auctioned on Ebay, October 15, 2009. For details on the auction and a complete list of Party Animal artists with links to their websites, visit the SitStaySmile blog. Learn more about the genesis of the original idea and the “sisterhood” of dog artists in an interview with Beninato on the Art Dog Blog.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Canine Art in 140 Minutes
Aimée Hoover uses Twitter-inspired portraits to promote her artwork.

With more and more companies getting on the Twitter bandwagon, dog artist, Aimée Hoover wondered how she could use the latest in social networking to promote her business. Instead of simply tweeting every now and then, she discovered an interactive and fun way to spread the word about her work and connect with fellow dog lovers.

Inspired by Twitter’s 140 character limit, Aimée wondered if she could paint a portrait of a fellow tweeter’s dog in less than 140 minutes. She tweeted looking for photos to fuel her experiment and a contest was born. So far Aimée has completed five free portraits of five lucky pups.

The time limit turned out to be quite liberating and Aimée even surprised herself by the pieces she’s been able to complete in such a small amount of time. Aimée’s commissioned portraits, which include more detail and continual collaboration with the client, take 24-40 hours to complete. 

Aimée plans on running the contest approximately once a month for as long as her schedule allows. The details on the next opportunity can be viewed on her blog. She’s even posted photo tips to help those vying for a free portrait. All Aimée asks is for winners to pay it forward and do something nice for someone else.

I have a weakness for canine art and have been a longtime fan of Aimée’s work. She has an amazing ability to capture each dog’s unique personality on canvas. So it didn’t surprise me that she found a way to challenge herself while inspiring others to share photos of the special canines in their lives. 

I’ve subscribed to other business’ Twitter feeds before, and it usually feels more like an infomercial with their mindless blasts of promotional tweets. Aimée’s Twitter page showcases her beautiful art and gives fans a peek into her daily routine.

Have you seen any unique canine-related uses of Twitter or other social networking websites?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Grieving Through Art
DoveLewis’ Community Art Program helps pet lovers heal after a loss.

When a friend’s dog recently passed away, in my search for a memorial gift, I discovered an amazing program started by certified grief counselor and artist, Enid Traisman at DoveLewis emergency animal hospital in Portland, Ore.

Through running one of the first pet loss support programs in the nation, Traisman found a unique way to use art to foster the healing process. Three years ago, the former social worker turned full-time pet grief counselor added the Community Art Program to the already successful group therapy sessions and 24-hour message line. Offered for free through a sponsorship by Dignified Pet Services, pet lovers can sign up through the hospital’s website.

Twice a month, Traisman picks projects to help grieving pet lovers memorialize animals who have recently passed away. People are asked to bring pictures of their pets to personalize their artwork. Past projects include picture frames, memory boxes, and prayer candles. At special adult-only sessions, participants have the opportunity to create glass memorial keepsakes fused with their pets’ ashes in a kiln.

Although Traisman has been doing this for years, she is still moved by what is an emotional process. “These memorial art sessions have been fabulously rewarding,” Traisman says. “It is amazing to see the beautiful items people create in memory of their beloved pets.” 

The DoveLewis Community Art Program is a great way to honor the pets who have given so much during their short time with us. I only wish there were more of these beneficial programs at other hospitals around the world.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Puppy You Can Drive My Car
Connie Townsend paints dogs with charm and humor.
Yesterday afternoon, I was introduced to the art of Connie Townsend, an artist who, like me, lives in Flagstaff, Ariz. Since then, I have talked to a number of friends, all of whom were literally shocked that this discovery was new to me. First of all, her art is all over town. Second of all, I work with dogs. And third, a big article about Connie and her work just came out in a local publication this spring. Sigh. I’ve got to get out more! Now that I know of her work, I don’t want anyone else to miss out.   Many of her images show dogs riding around in or driving cars, and all of them are filled with fun. What really caught my attention was the realistic way that she depicts their faces. When a dog leans out the window and the wind is hitting his face, the relaxed face, open mouth, flapping ears and shiny eyes look so authentic, as do the expressions of all her canine characters. It’s that emotional realism in scenes of great imagination and humor that combine to make her paintings memorable.
News: Guest Posts
Painting Dogs and Tweeting
Meet Twitter contest winner, Rachael Rossman.

Sometimes it feels like the Internet—especially, the sliver carved out by dog-lovers—is just one big off-leash area. Return a stranger’s poached tennis ball, and you’re likely to hear a fascinating dog story or discover another dog entrepreneur. So I shouldn’t be surprised that a random drawing for a Bark goodie bag from among our first 50 followers on Twitter would surface someone like Rachael Rossman.

Rossman paints watercolor pet portraits in Salem, Oregon. But she’s no lonely, tech-phobic recluse. In fact, she brings a whole lotta social-networking savvy to her art. One of her biggest gets was landing a spot on MarthaStewart.com with an un-commissioned painting of the doyenne’s French bulldogs, Sharkey and Francesca. More recently, Rossman painted a portrait of Bo Obama, which she promptly sent to the White House as a gift. No word back on that, but she likes the idea that it might be sitting on Michelle Obama’s desk at this very moment.

“I have been an artist all my life in one capacity or another,” she says. “But it wasn’t until a few years ago that my passion for painting was fully realized.” For many years, Rossman was a competitive equestrian, participating in hunter/jumper shows throughout the Northwest. When her first child was born and she gave up daily rides, she started using her art to live out her equestrian dreams vicariously.

“I started painting horse show scenes and then people started asking me to paint portraits of their horses,” she says. “Horse people usually have one or two dogs around the barn and they began asking for portraits of them too.”

Since then, some choice mentions in blogs, and on Facebook and Twitter have added some gas to the enterprise. But the artist’s passion is still very much there, especially when it comes to painting dogs’ eyes. “Each dog’s eyes tell a story,” she says. “I usually wait until the last minute to paint the eyes. I don’t know why, because it’s a real risk. If you don’t get them just right, it’s just not the same.”

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Learning About Pets Through Art
AKC teams up with The Cat Fanciers' Association for kids art contest.

The American Kennel Club and The Cat Fanciers' Association are teaming up for an art contest to celebrate dogs and cats. Open to school children between the ages of 6 and 18 in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, the competition celebrates the diversity of pets and why we love them.

 

Besides the usual categories like Best in Show and Best of Breed, others awards will be given for best depiction of a dog’s job (i.e., a Border Collie herding), a dog’s country of origin (i.e., a Shiba Inu in Japan), a dog participating in an AKC event (i.e,. a Golden Retriever doing Rally obedience), and the human/animal bond (i.e., a Smooth Fox Terrier doing a therapy visit).

 

The winners will be awarded Visa gift cards and rosettes and the artwork will be displayed at the Meet the Breeds event in New York City on October 17-18. Submissions will be accepted until August 15.

 

It’s definitely interesting to see the collaboration between the AKC and CFA and I’m excited to see the artwork, particularly the pieces on the human/animal bond. This contest is a great opportunity for kids to learn about what dogs were originally bred to do and what they’re capable of doing with their owners.

News: Guest Posts
Tattoo You
A loving tribute that’s more than skin deep.

Last spring, I wrote a story about dog tattoos, or more precisely, people who have tattoos—usually portraits—of their dogs. I was awed by the variety and beauty of these tributes. After we ran the story, I received so many wonderful photos of tattoos (which we posted on our old blog over the following weeks). Honestly, for a while there, I began to feel like I was writing for a dog-tattoo blog—so did a few less enthusiastic readers. So at the risk of exciting their ire once again, I have to share this latest tattoo from Elisa Bolvari, a loyal reader for the last eight years. Here’s what Elisa wrote about her tattto:

"It is a memorial to six canine friends I had the pleasure to live with during my life and who are now waiting for me on the other side (where I believe they are indeed joyful). My Dogs humble me—their freely shared love, unbridled joy of each day and willingness to share the most treasured, dirty, wet prize makes my heart swell. I thank them for truly being my Co-Pilots."

Her tattoo designer and artist was Mark Duhan of Skin Deep Ink Tattoo in New Milford, Conn. According to Elisa, Mark is also a dog lover, who “neva met a dog I didn’t like.”

I don’t have any tattoos myself—a soul-curdling fear of needles being one central reason—but when I see a work like Elisa’s and hear about her inspiration, I can almost imagine it. Almost.

 

News: Guest Posts
Picasso’s Dog
Begging for scraps in the Cubist style

When I lived in New York, I had the good fortune to visit a few museums in the company of Thomas Hoving, the former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. With him, there was no slow shuffling past endless works, dedicating a minute or two to each. Instead we hoofed through galleries intent on a destination, with Hoving discouraging us from taking in the sights along the way. Then we’d arrive at the pre-selected work, with fresh eyes, and spend time, lots of it, taking in one piece. I learned that one masterpiece appreciated deeply is, for me, a richer experience than taking in many works superficially. To this day, that’s how I do most big museums.

What’s this got to do with Bark? Well, if you live anywhere near Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven, Conn., consider taking the Hoving-approach to their current Picasso exhibition. Leave most of the 70 works to the others, and spend some serious time with his wonderful 1921 Cubist dog painting—“Dog and Cock.”

A pointy-eared pooch with fringy fur sniffs at the edge of a fully loaded dinner table. Tongue out. Not only do we see this scene played out more than we’d like in our own homes, dogs begging at banquets are a long artistic tradition. The light humor of this familiar moment makes appreciating Picasso’s Cubist technique a total delight.

Learn more about Bark’s take on this masterwork in the May 2009 issue. “Picasso and the Allure of Language” runs through May 24 at the Yale University Art Gallery, Chapel and York Streets, New Haven.

Bonus Track: Picasso was no stranger to the habits of dogs. He shared his life with many including Lump the Dachshund, an Afghan Hound named Kabul, and a Boxer named Jan. To see fantastic images of Pablo Picasso and his canine confrères, check out David Douglas Duncan’s online Picasso gallery.

News: Guest Posts
Man’s Best Muse
Don't miss Mascot Studio’s 10th Annual Dog Show

If your Big Apple pupster enjoys a little high culture, perambulate on down to New York City’s dog-friendly East Village. Through March 21, Mascot Studio (328 E. Ninth St.) celebrates man’s best muse with its 10th Annual Dog Show—featuring canine-themed oils, watercolors, illustrations, photography and collage by artists including studio owner Peter McCaffrey, Anne Watkins and Luba Jane Blatman (both of whom have graced Bark’s pages), Laura Sue Philips, June Moss, Anthony Freda, Jane O’Hara, Irit Cohen, Eric Ginsburg, Sebastian Piras, Aaron Meshon and selected vintage works. Look for the Cave Canem shingle with the mascot’s mug, inspired by Pete the Pup of Our Gang fame. Open Tues.-Sat., 1-7 p.m.

 

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