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    After his beloved dog passed away five years ago, artist Mark Barone and his partner, Marina, began searching for a new dog at animal shelters. During their research, they ware shocked to learn that around 5,500 shelter dogs are euthanized each day in the United States. Barone decided that his next artistic project would be a tribute to these animals. Four years ago, he began painting a series of works that he calls “An Act of Dog.” The plan was to paint 5,500 portraits of dogs that have been killed in animal shelters, and display them in a Museum of Compassion. “The aim of the project is not just to raise awareness, but also to raise funds for the rescues that are on the front lines trying to save these animals,” Barone says.

    In early 2011, Barone relocated to Louisville and began working on “An Act of Dog” full time. Before the snowstorm hit Louisville on Sunday, Mark Barone says he was on the home stretch. “I was on my last five [paintings]. I was waiting for the last five because the PBS documentary filmmakers wanted to capture the last five I was doing.” You can watch a trailer for this documentary here.

    Then came the snowstorm. “I came in Tuesday morning. There had been drips and leaks in there…but where the paintings were stacked – there are twenty shelves of paintings, about five shelves high each – so they’re all stacked on there. So when the sun started hitting the snow and the snow started melting, it started leaking in a spot right over three full shelves of paintings. There was just water pouring in over them.”

    The paintings, which were stored in Barone’s rented studio space in Mellwood Arts Center, are mostly done on medium density fiber board, which had been primed to sustain regular fluctuations in moisture, but not to survive sitting in “pools of water” as Barone described. Sadly, the paintings weren’t insured. “We just didn’t have the money to pay to insure 5,500 paintings, because that would be so extraordinarily expensive to do. I used all my retirement savings to do the project anyway, and if I’d had to insure the art that would have ate up all my savings just for the insurance. That just wasn’t an option for us.”

    200 of the paintings are “probably completely destroyed”, and 800 are possibly salvageable, though that will take almost as much work as completely repainting them. Some have suggested Barone auction off the ruined paintings, but though he finds their sentiment kind, he says “I don’t want my work going out damaged. My name’s on this stuff.” One of the most painful things about this disaster, Barone says, is “there was an evolution to the paintings. As you paint, your paintings develop. And I can never get that back again. That’s gone.”

    But what does this tremendous setback mean for the completion of Barone’s project? “I’m more determined now than ever,” he says. “There’s no way I’m going to quit, because I wouldn’t be quitting on myself, I’d be quitting on these animals.”

    You can help fund Barone’s project by visiting An Act of Dog’s website here and purchasing some of their merchandise, or visiting their Go Fund Me Page here. You can follow Act of Dog on Facebook here.

    All images courtesy of “An Act of Dog” and Mark Barone.


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    About Elizabeth Myers

    Big fan of bacon and bourbon, deep fried anything, sweet tea and sweet nothings.

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