If you follow me on Foursquare, you know that Second April Galerie is one of the places I visit the most. I visit there so often, they allow me to have UPS and FedEx delivered there, since there is always someone around for pick-up.
Second April is right around the corner from me in the Canton Arts District, and they have a nice, comfy coffee bar. There are always interesting folks hanging out, engaging in interesting conversation. And the artisitic environment is stunningly magical.
Oh yeah. And there’s Brennis and Todd.
Co-owners of Second April, B&T are two of the sweetest, funnest, most charming and hysterically funny guys I have ever met.
Truth be told, B&T gave me the opportunity to stretch my creative muscles so that I could eventually become a full time professional artist. They are my pals, my delivery guys, and my inspiration.
The day before I left for Las Vegas, Brennis was rushed to the Emergency Room with chest pains. Several tests revealed that he had suffered a mild heart attack. He had open heart surgery soon after and he is now recovering at home from the ordeal. He is doing well, but it is a slow process.
The hardest part is that Brennis has no health insurance. As you can imagine, the bills are adding up. His friends are many, and they are doing what they can to raise funds for him. I agreed to post a ChipIn for him. You are welcome to donate if you would like.
Thanks to the “Brennis Bunch”, a group of friends who pitched in, Second April remained open every business day during the crisis. That’s the kind of comraderie we have here in the Canton Arts District. It is truly a supportive arts community on many levels.
Now you know why I love it here so much!
(Grab the code and put the widget on your own blog/website!)
UPDATE: I have created a new website for the Okey’s Promise project. Please follow along at okeyspromise.com.
(Please forgive me for this unusually long post. It requires some length for full discussion.)
I used to say that doing counseling (my other career) was like painting a painting. Instead of using lines and color and various media, I was managing human variables, bringing them together to find harmony out of chaos.
In both – creating a painting and using communication skills to bring about emotional healing – you have to surrender a certain amount of control to dimensions out of your reach. But with both, you rely on your skills, talents, and spiritual connections with others to bring about something of value.
As I am moving towards my artwork becoming my main career focus, I am astounded at how the counselor in me comes through in the art, much as the artist in me did when counseling was my main focus.
Although I specialize in painting animals, a subject that would seem to be somewhat separate from more social conscience types of art, I am amazed at how healing pet-themed artworks can be to people who rely on their pets for balance and connection in their worlds.
I also find that I have become more deeply connected with people who are doing great work with pet rescue and animal charities to deal with the inhumanity perpetrated on innocent creatures in our society.
Recently, a lost and forlorn cat crossed my path. Residing in a parking lot and in danger of being killed by heavy traffic in the area, she was like a sitting duck. Reluctantly, I rescued her – the reluctance being because of my own circumstances being not the best for adopting a new cat.
I was deeply humbled by how many people not only followed her story here, but also donated to her veterinary care. Within DAYS, $305 was raised for my little Okey.
It is clear to me that Okey was socialized to some degree with people, then abandoned. The way that she cowers with me leads me to believe that the humans she has encountered before me were frightening to her. She is coming around, but it is a slow process.
It is one thing to care about animals and to have compassion for creatures who are lost in our human world. Yet there are those who would suggest that we should worry more about other social ills first. An editorial in my local paper went so far as to decry volunteers who give of themselves, implying that childhood poverty was a more important concern to address.
But here is the reality. When animals are suffering in society, children are too. When there is violence to animals, there is likely violence to children and others who may be defenseless. Where there is poverty, there is an abundance of unwanted pets due to animals not being spayed and neutered.
Truth be told, child welfare programs grew out of the efforts of animal rescue organizations who were seeing children in deplorable conditions when they were rescuing endangered pets.
The issue of pet abuse and abandonment is deeply connected to the issue of child abuse and domestic violence. Both issues need to be addressed together, not one in isolation of each other. I have a whole contingent of women and children advocates who will back me up on this.
My community of Stark County, OH has had a long history of poor management and horrible conditions at the county dog pound. Recently, mismanagement led to a family pet being wrongfully euthanized, and our commissioners are, once again failing to see how this issue connects with the other ills of our society.
I want to make it VERY difficult to do that from here on out.
I want to make my local community, as well as the broader global community with whom I connect, to realize that we must treat our animals well, in addition to addressing the needs of children and others in need in the community.
How? I am planning a series of large public artworks to place prominently in my community to highlight the value that animals bring to our world. Along with the artwork, I want to create a public awareness campaign to highlight the connections between animal maltreatment and child abuse and domestic violence.
These will not be negatively focused artworks to make us feel guilty, rather, they will be artworks designed to make us feel good about doing what is right.
I do not yet have the funding for the project, and it will likely come in stages. I plan to utilize Kickstarter.com, potential grants, and other resources to raise the funds. I am submitting the idea to Launchpad, in hopes that I might become one of their “Five people, five ideas, transforming five communities”.
I hope that I can rely on my fans and friends to get the word out and help in anyway that they can. You guys are THE BEST.
In the interest of full disclosure, please know that I have to make a living, so the fund raising will provide me support to live as I engage in the project. Consider it an Encore Career, combining “purpose, passion and a paycheck”. I would not be able to do it otherwise. But trust me, I will not be getting rich off of the project.
Art with a purpose and art with passion is essential to me. Bringing about change through creative motivation is the most valuable change there is. I want to be a part of the solution to community concerns locally, and worldwide.
In honor of my little rescue cat, saved from the dangers of the streets in Canton, which I intend to make safer for all, I am calling the project “Okey’s Promise”. The art will make a promise to do better for our community’s children and creatures.
As I try to show this little cat that some humans are OK, and the world doesn’t have to be so scary, I am haunted by the fact that there could be a child out there missing her.
And that child doesn’t have me or anyone else to show him or her that the world is OK.
On Thursday, September 23, I engaged in a 12-hr. paint-a-thon. From 9am to 9pm, I painted as many paintings as I could and placed them all up for auction to raise money for the Friends of Stark Pound.
The paint-a-thon took place at Second April Galerie, who hosted the Art of Kindness fundraiser event billed as “An Evening of Fun, Food and Furry Friends!” and art exhibit. (The art exhibit will remain on display through October 1, 2010.)
A large crowd of art and animal enthusiasts attended the evening event, which included live music by Roger Phillips and Ken Weiss; several items donated for a silent auction; food and drink; and lots of furry frivolity. Several dogs available for adoption provided lots of barking and tail wagging fun.
I ended up painting 5 paintings which raised $315 for the Friends of Stark Pound. Bids were taken at the gallery and online through Twitter. Three paintings went to in-gallery bidders and two went to bidders on Twitter. One winning bidder was from Germany!
Thanks to all who stopped by to cheer me on during the day and to those who provided support online. Special thanks go to those who bought the paintings and provided much needed funds to the Friends of Stark Pound.