ADVERTISEMENTS

Give The Bark -- The Ultimate Dog Magazine



Introducing the New Havahart Wireless Custom-Shape Dog Fence

Fine Leather Dog Collars For All Breeds

Heartspeak message cards


Mixed-breed DNA test to find out the breeds that make up you dog.

Bulldog Leash Hook

Healthy Dog Treats

Free Shipping - Pet Medication


SitStay, Good for Your Dog Supplies

books on dogs

Tag: dog mountain

Mountainside Encounters: Dog Mountain

Names: Too many to mention.

Breeds: Too many to mention.

Encountered: At Dog Mountain, in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.

Backstory: Despite the death this year of its founder, Dog Mountain held its annual Dog Fest over the weekend — this time making it a celebration of not just dogs, but also of the life and art of Stephen Huneck.

Hundreds showed up for the event.

“We know he would have wanted everyone to have a great time,” said Gwen Huneck, widow of the artist who commited suicide earlier this year. “That is, after all, why the artist created Dog Mountain and the Dog Chapel. Stephen wanted families with their dogs to have fun and enjoy nature in a place where they can bond with their furry family members as well as other dog lovers.”

We brought you the story of artist Stephen Huneck and Dog Mountain in a post earlier today. But these photos from Sunday’s festival may best explain what it’s all about. In a word, dogs.

“Stephen believed having dogs in our lives encourages us to love,  laugh and play more often, all qualities that are good for the soul,” she added.

“He also believed being around dogs makes it easier for people to interact with each other and make new friends.” 

 

Roadside Encounters is a regular feature of “Travels With Ace” — the continuing account of one man and one dog spending six months criss-crossing the country.

To see all our roadside encounters click here.

Dog Mountain lives on

Stephen Huneck is gone — he took his own life earlier this year – but his love for dogs remains firmly and artfully stamped on a mountainside in Vermont.

His studio, in a giant red barn, is silent. Stacks of wood sit uncarved and untouched. But the gallery he built, the dog park he created and, perhaps his greatest inspiration, the Dog Chapel, remain open on Dog Mountain – an ongoing testament of one man’s love for dogs, and to what dogs add to our lives.

His widow wants to keep it that way, and with the renewed demand for his work after his death, a morbid fact of life when it comes to art, it’s looking like Dog Mountain, once facing foreclosure, will, happily, survive.

In what was one of the saddest stories in the art world, and the dog world, this year, Huneck, whose joyful odes to dogs — carved, sculpted and stamped on woodblock prints — shot himself amid a depression triggered by a recession.

The sagging economy had, starting in 2008, slowed sales of his art, forced him to close down his multiple studios and eventually — in what was hardest for him – lay off almost all of his 15 employees.

“Our employees were sort of like family,” his widow, Gwen, explained to me when Ace and I visited this past weekend. “Stephen blamed himself.”

With the economic downturn, she said, “People were unsure of the future, and when people are unsure of the future, they don’t buy art.”

Two days later after letting his employees go, Huneck, who was being treated for depression, shot himself in his car, parked outside his psychiatrist’s office in Littleton, New Hampshire. He was 60.

In a press release after his death, Gwen wrote, “Stephen feared losing Dog Mountain and our home. On Tuesday, he had to lay off most of our employees. This hurt Stephen deeply. He cared about them and felt responsible for their welfare.”

Despite its founder’s demise, Dog Mountain, somehow, remains a joyous place. Dogs romp and splash about in the lake at the well-manicured dog park; hikers trek its trails; customers delight in Huneck’s whimsical woodcut prints, hung about the gallery; his sculptures rise from the landscape; and a steady stream of dogs and humans flow in and out of Dog Chapel, Hunecks hand-built replica of 19th Century New England church — designed, like almost all else he did, despite some major personal obstacles, to honor dog.

In 1994, Huneck fell down a flight of stairs and was in a coma for two months. When he came out of it, he had Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome, and doctors were not optimistic.

Huneck had to relearn how to walk, how to sign his name. But he went back to work, finishing a series of woodcut prints based on his dog Sally. The first woodcut he carved was “Life Is A Ball” celebrating his new found life.

His near-death experience also inspired him to build the Dog Chapel – a place where people can celebrate the spiritual bond they have with their dogs, past and present.

He started it in 1997, finished it in 2000, and then opened it to the public. Admission was, and is, free. Leashes were not, and are not, required.

Huneck called the chapel “the largest artwork of my life and my most personal.” A sign outside the chapel states: “All Creeds, All Breeds, No Dogmas Allowed.”

A miniature version of a 19th century New England village church, the chapel has four hand-carved pews, with carvings of dogs at the end of each, stained glass windows that feature winged dogs (a recurring image in his work). The interior walls are covered with post-it notes, left by visitors. Originally there was one “Remembrance Wall,” where pet owners could memorialize their pets. Now all the walls are covered with them. People who couldn’t make the trip could email their remembrances and Huneck would post them for them.

After his recovery, Huneck continued producing dog-inspired works of art, and, by 2000, Dog Mountain was a multi-million dollar business. He published a series of children’s books, and opened galleries across the country.

All that came after a difficult childhood. Huneck, who was dyslexic, grew up in the Boston area in what he described as a turbulent home. He left home at 17 “with 33 cents in his pocket,” his wife said. After attending Massacusetts College of Art in Boston, where he met Gwen, Huneck became an antiques dealer. Through repairing furniture, he taught himself how to carve. In 1984, one of his original carvings caught the eye of a New York dealer, and he was soon making art full time, according to his obituary in the New York Times.

Gwen and Stephen settled in Vermont, and bought a 200-year-old house. Huneck built a studio alongside the house and worked there until 1995 when they bought a nearby farm, converted its dairy barn into his new studio, and later built the chapel and gallery.

When the economy turned sour, he faced losing all he had built up.

“We’d used our life savings to keep the business going, but we ran out of money,” Gwen said.

Even in his depressed state, Huneck knew there is higher demand for a dead artist’s work — and some say, to the extent there was any, that was the logic behind his act, that he killed himself to save Dog Mountain.

Gwen — though she had doubts about whether it would be possible — was intent on saving Dog Mountain after his death. She kept the gallery and chapel open, and business improved.

“There was a real outpouring from people who realized how much Stephen and Dog Mountain meant to them,” she said.

Today, Dog Mountain has eight employees — most of them the ones who had been laid off. Business is brisk, both on the mountain and on the Huneck’s website, www.dogmt.com.

At the gallery, dogs are welcome, and Gwen encourages those coming in to take their dogs off their leashes.

Ace accepted the invitation, greeted Gwen’s three dogs — two Labrador retrievers, Daisy and Salvador Doggie, and a golden retriever named Molly — then settled down on the floor amid a collection of Huneck’s work.

Many have described that work as whimsical — carved Dachshund lamps, prints of dogs with wings, dalmatian benches and the like — but delightful as each individual piece is, Stephen Huneck’s body of work, and his life, went far deeper than whimsy, striking a chord with many. Ten months after his death, it still resonates.

“I’ve learned so much more about love from my dogs than I ever did from my parents or the church,”  Huneck told The Chicago Tribune in 1997. “They’re really great teachers. They love you with their whole heart.”

Maybe writer Edie Clark said it best in the piece she wrote for Yankee magazine after Huneck’s death:

“Stephen was to dogs what dogs are to us.”

(To see more of “Travels with Ace,” click here.)

Wherefore art thou: Huneck’s tardy obituary

Nearly a month after the death of famed dog artist Stephen Huneck, the New York Times has seen fit to print his obituary.

stephen-studio-01The internationally known artist, woodcarver and furniture maker, and creator of the Dog Chapel, a hand-built church in Vermont, fatally shot himself on Jan. 7 in Littleton, N.H.

According to his wife, Gwen, he had been despondent over having had to lay off most of the employees of his art business that week.

While Huneck once had a national network of six galleries, only the one at his residence on Dog Mountain remains.

The tardy Times obit offered little new information about Huneck’s life or his suicide, except for this bit of irony: His death has led to a renewed demand for his work, enabling Ms. Huneck to hire back most of the employees let go last month.

Dog artist Stephen Huneck dead at 60

huneckart

 
Stephen Huneck, whose paintings, sculptures and woodcut prints of dogs celebrated his deep love for animals, took his own life last week in New Hampshire.

Huneck, of St. Johnsbury, committed suicide Thursday in Littleton, N.H. His wife said he was despondent after being forced to lay off employees at his Dog Mountain studio and Dog Mountain chapel in Vermont.

“Like many Americans, we had been adversely affected by the economic downturn,” Gwen Huneck wrote in a letter Friday announcing his death. “Stephen feared losing Dog Mountain and our home. Then on Tuesday we had to lay off most of our employees. This hurt Stephen deeply. He cared about them and felt responsible for their welfare.”

Two days later, he shot himself in the head while sitting in a parked car outside the office of his psychiatrist, the Burlington Free Press reported.

dogchapelA native of Sudbury, Mass., Huneck started out whittling wooden sculptures and later dog-themed furniture. In 2000, he built the Dog Chapel – a miniature version of the 19th-century churches that dot Vermont’s landscape — from wood harvested from his 175-acre Dog Mountain property.

The chapel, a popular tourist stop, has vaulted ceilings, stained-glass windows with images of dogs pieced into them, and handcrafted pews, also built by Huneck. A sign outside reads: “Welcome all creeds, all breeds. No dogmas allowed.”

Dog lovers would make the trip to Vermont just to see the chapel, many writing notes to their deceased pets and attaching them to the walls. Huneck never took them down.

Huneck advocated for dog-friendly lodging, water dishes  at parks and highway rest stops, and dog-friendly dining.

stephen-studio-01“Really, my agenda is to make Vermont the France of America, as far as the way we relate to our dogs,” Huneck told The Burlington Free Press in 2006. “I think it would be wonderful if people could bring their dogs into restaurants. … Every time I eat at a restaurant I feel really guilty because I know those scraps would make a friend of mine really happy.”

Huneck’s seven books — including “Sally Goes to the Beach,” “Sally Goes to the Farm” and “Sally Gets a Job”– featured woodcut prints of his  beloved Labrador retrievers, accompanied by quirky captions.

“He was one of the most creative and active members of the Vermont crafts community,” said Jennifer Boyer, co-owner of  Artisans Hand, a craft gallery in Montpelier. “I appreciate how much energy he put into his works, which were whimsical and sardonically funny. He really had a unique sense of humor.”

In 1994, Huneck fell down a flight of stairs and was in a coma for two months.  Although he recovered fully, he had to relearn everything from how to walk to how to sign his name, according to his Dog Mountain website.

After waking up from the coma, Huneck immediately began working on a series of woodcut prints he had envisioned before the accident, based on his dog Sally. The first in the series was called “Life Is A Ball.”

After this near death experience, Stephen began work on the Dog Chapel, a place, as he described it, “where people can go and celebrate the spiritual bond they have with their dogs.”

(Photos from dogmt.com)