Children’s paintings of shelter animals on exhibit to be auctioned
By Alison Rooney
Painted portraits of a very appealing motley crew of dogs and cats currently line the walls of Beacon Bagel. The paintings are the work of young artists and animal lovers, aged 6 through 12, who live in Beacon and are participating in “Pet Portraits,” an annual fundraiser for the Mid Hudson Animal Aid shelter and Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF), also in Beacon. Now in its fourth year, the program, begun by art teacher Jill Losee, has raised thousands of dollars for these always struggling organizations.
“It’s the fourth one we’ve done,” Losee said. Drawing young painters from the ranks of the kids who have attended her Beacon Art Adventures children’s after-school and summer art programs through the years, Losee provides them with photos of animals currently living at the shelters. (Bringing the kids to the shelter in person presents difficulties with allergies and transportation, among other things, Losee noted.)
With equal numbers of cats and dogs, each artist chooses a favorite, “the one which speaks to them — I always bring more than the number of kids, so there’s a choice,” Losee said. Then the child makes a painting with that dog or cat as the subject. The backgrounds and details come from the artists’ imaginations, and often the animals are painted in “idealized settings, settings that these animal-loving artists wish for them,” Losee said.
The whole project stemmed from a simple idea of Losee’s: “I’m an animal lover, and I wanted to do a project in which kids could have the experience of making a difference in the community, and also relating to animals,” she explained. “In addition to raising much-needed funds, our goal is to help raise awareness of the many adoptable, homeless animals in our community. We want to try to get people out there who are looking for a pet to consider adopting through a shelter rather than a pet store or breeder. Also, this project empowers kids with the knowledge that they can make a difference in their community.”
In addition to the portrait, each child also makes a wish and describes the kind of life that they hope that their dog or cat will have with their new family that they wouldn’t have at the shelter. One, from Edie Strianese, age 7, about Gizmo reads: “I hope that someone chooses Gizmo because every dog should have long walks, lots of hugs and kisses and a family to be part of. We have Chico, who is from ARF and he is part of our family. Every kid should have a dog to love.” Another, from Evy Diebboll, also 7, about Linda goes: “I hope Linda finds a lovely family who will bring her for walks on the beach and in forests and will play with her outside and throw balls to her.”
All of the 20 or so paintings currently on view were done over the course of the past year. As they have been for the previous three years, they’ve adorned the walls at Beacon Bagel for an extended period of time, gathering fans. One family even spotted a portrait of a dog their family had just adopted, up on the wall. Naturally, they purchased it, and now the painting of Speedy, a dog adopted from ARF, hangs on their wall at home.
Four years ago, Losee was searching for a café or retail space in which to display the works. She went into Beacon Bagel, saw that Art Burns, Beacon Bagel’s owner, “had no art in there, and thought it was perfect — it was filled with families and young children. They put a rail up to hang the exhibit and we’ve returned each year since,” said Losee. There will be a reception for the artists on June 13, Second Saturday.
Beginning at 7 p.m. on June 7 and extending through June 14, a silent auction, similar to those on eBay, will take place for each portrait. All are shown up close on the website. Bids will be taken throughout the week, and the highest, at the end of the auction, is the winner. Losee said that registering for the auction is a simple process and initially only entails providing a name and email address.
At the conclusion of it all, Losee heads to the shelters, a few of the artists in tow, and presents them with a check containing 100 percent of the proceeds. Thus far, the project has raised nearly $4,500 for the shelters.