The merciless reality of animal shelter euthanasia has sparked a number of movements that seek to make a difference. One artist and his wife dropped everything they had, determined to contribute their efforts to the fight.
Mark Barone painted 5,500 individual portraits of shelter dogs whose lives were lost to euthanasia. A number that mirrors the number of shelter dogs put to sleep each day.
He and his wife, Marina Dervan, call it An Act of Dog. Mark referenced real photographs provided by shelter volunteers for every pup “whose soul was lost.” Many of the images were given to Mark while the pups were still alive, but with a pre-determined faith. He says it’s easy to dismiss a number, but it’s not very easy to dismiss 5,500 paintings.
It took over four years to complete portraits for the average number of shelter dogs euthanized in a single day, but the project is still in its beginning phases.
The goal is to use the paintings to build a permanent exhibition in a Museum of Compassion, the first of its kind. The museum will serve as a stepping stone for the animal welfare conciousness. Barone hopes to raise awareness and increase compassion through experiencing what the number 5,500 really means.
The aspiring exhibition will serve as a forever fund that will donate 100% of its proceeds to the salvation of shelter animals.
Its being built on the support of the public through several donation options on their site. Each donation amount is accompanied by the face and story of a painted shelter pup. A $20 donation in the name of Leo, a beautiful black dog, shares his story of discrimination; being a black shelter pup is usually synonymous with being the first to be euthanized or the last to be adopted.
Last year, PBS joined Mark and his wife during the last five paintings of the series. Filmmakers documented the bittersweet tail end of the journey that they embarked on more than four years ago.
We spoke to producer Bonnie Silva, who’s also a multiple award-winning writer, about the status of the film. She said that this project was particularly difficult to receive funding for, given its magnitude and subject manner. “Most people don’t want to see it,” she said. “It’s currently still in production.” The project is part of a non-profit organization called Filmmakers Collaborative, which provides independent filmmakers with sponsorship and support. Donations for An Act of Dog, the documentary, can be submitted through their site. Watch the chilling, but beautiful, trailer below:
There is no doubt that shelter euthanasia is a frightening reality to face. But the animals can’t save themselves, can they? Bonnie shared a quote with us that Mark said during their time together, “I painted the 5,500 images so people would have to confront them.”