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Tag: museum

Dog museum heading back to New York

museum1

The Dog Museum of America (yes, it’s a real thing) will move from its home in Missouri back to New York City.

The museum spent its first five years of existence in Manhattan, until it moved west, in part because the rent would be cheaper.

It first opened in the New York Life building at 51 Madison Avenue in 1982, and moved to St. Louis in 1987. After 30 years it will be moving back, probably within a year, to be housed in the American Kennel Club headquarters, the AKC announced Friday.

The American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog boasts one of the world’s biggest collections of canine art.

The move is aimed at enhancing its future, and is the result of a “mutual agreement” between the museum’s board and the AKC board, the New York Post reported

“New York City is world-renowned for its art and museum culture and we feel that it is the perfect place to house a museum and educational interactive learning center as a destination,” said Ronald H. Menaker, chairman of the board for the American Kennel Club.

Stephen George, the museum’s executive director, said the decision was made to increase the number of people who see the artwork.

George said attendance and programming has increased in recent years, with about 6,000 paying visitors last year. Its revenues, however, have dropped.

In addition to George, a curator, an event coordinator and five part-time staffers will lose their jobs, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

After a year-long nationwide search for a new home, it was moved to Missouri, reopening in 1987 as the Dog Museum of America at the Jarville House in Queeny Park.

museum2St. Louis County officials had meant for the Jarville House to be a temporary home, but plans to incorporate the museum into a planned horse park and condominium complex fell through.

The museum operated on its own in St. Louis County, but in 1995, it and the AKC reaffiliated, and the museum was renamed the American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog.

There was more talk of relocating after that, with a move to North Carolina being described in 1996 as a “done deal.”

But the AKC reconsidered and opted to keep it in St. Louis.

Through the years, the AKC has donated more than $4.5 million to keep the museum open.

The museum in houses 4,000 pieces of dog art, including paintings, photos and sculptures. It also holds more than 3,000 books and other publications, and it maintains a registry of more than 250 artists who are available by commission to paint dog portraits.

(Photo: Robert Cohen / Post-Dispatch)

An Act of Dog: A memorial to the millions of shelter dogs put down in America


It’s easy to ignore statistics. They’re cold and dry and lack soulful eyes. And when the numbers are overwhelming — like the 5,500 unwanted dogs who are put to death daily in U.S. shelters — we tend, as a rule, to find life is more comfortable and less depressing when we don’t do the math.

Louisville artist Mark Barone is an exception to that rule. Rather than ignore the problem, he decided to put a face on it — 5,500 of them, in fact.

For two years now, he has been painting portraits of dogs who have been put down at shelters across the country, and he’s more than halfway to his goal: 5,500 portraits that he hopes will someday — unlike their subjects — find a forever home.

Barone and his partner, Marina Dervan, call the project “An Act of Dog.”

Their hope is the works will someday be displayed in a permanent memorial museum, which — between its emotional impact and the funds it would help raise for no-kill rescues and shelters — could help lead to their larger goal,  a no-kill nation.

Mark, a well-established artist, had moved to Santa Fe when, about three years ago, he lost his dog of 21 years, Santina.

“It was kind of a sad time, and I thought it would be therapeutic for Mark to go to the dog park,” Marina recalled. “I thought it would be helpful for him to get some dog love, and it was. It was really great. It got me in the mood to think about adopting another dog. Mark wasn’t at that stage, but it didn’t stop me from looking.”

Looking for adoptable dogs online and at local shelters, she quickly learned the sad reality that she says neither she nor Mark, up to then, were aware of — that millions of dogs in need of homes are put down at shelters every year.

“Instead of finding a dog, I found out all these horrifying statistics,” she said. She shared them with Mark, along with images and videos of dogs who had been, or were on the verge of, being put down.

He asked her to stop sharing, but she kept up.

“If we don’t look at it, nothing will change,” she said. “So he looked at it, as painful as it was, and day or two later, we were standing in the kitchen and he asked me the number of dogs killed everyday in the country … I gave him the number 5,500, based on statistics from Best Friends.”

It was then that the idea of honoring shelter dogs by painting 5,500 portraits of those who had been killed was born, and along with it, the longer term plan of a memorial museum, along the lines of the Vietnam Memorial and the Holocaust Museum.

First, they started looking for the studio space to get started on the task, mailing out inquiries in search of a city or town that might offer free space for him to paint.

Santa Fe wasn’t interested. Louisville was among about 30 places that were.

That’s where the couple lives now, and where Mark has completed about 3,200 of the portraits — some of them life- sized, some of them larger.

“It’s the big ones, 8 feet by 8 feet, that slow things down,” Mark said.

Only one of the 8×8-foot paintings depicts a dog who died a natural death — Mark’s dog, Santina. According to Marina, Santina will serve as the gatekeeper of the exhibit. Other large portraits feature  Batman, a 10-year-old pit bull who was left outside in 21 degree weather, and was found dead at a shelter the next morning, and Grant, who was deemed unadoptable due food bowl aggression and put down.

The large paintings — there will be 10 of them — will include the individual stories of those dogs, representing the most common reasons shelters give to put animals down.

“It’s pretty much the wall of shame,” Marina said.

Mark and Marina are still looking for a permanent place to house the works, and for sponsors and benefactors for the museum, and they have some promising leads, both in Louisville and around the country. In addition to being an educational center, the museum would also be an outlet for selling merchandise that features the images — shirts, cards, and other products. An Act of Dog, which is a nonprofit organization, would pass on all profits to no-kill facilities and rescue groups.

The dogs in the paintings come from shelters all around the country. Their photos are submitted by rescue groups, volunteers and shelter employees. They have all been put down.

Mark and Marina object to the use of the term “euthanized” when it’s applied to healthy animals. “Deliberately ending the life of a healthy and treatable pet is killing.  Deliberately ending the life of a medically hopeless and suffering pet is euthanasia,” Marina said. They don’t much like “put to sleep,” either.

“Semantics are a powerful way to keep people from the truth and our mission is to show reality without the candy wrapping,” she added.

Mark paints everyday, from sunrise to sunset. At night, he and Marina work on the An Act of Dog website. They’re both foregoing salaries at this point.

Mark has served as a consultant to cities interested in using the arts to revitalize blighted areas, among them Paducah, Kentucky, and its Paducah Artist Re-locaton Program. Marina worked 20 years coaching corporate executives.  

Now they’ve cashed in their retirement savings and are devoting full time to the project.

“We could turn away and pretend like we didn’t see what we saw, or we could do something about it,” she added. “If that means we have to live poor,  we’re OK with that, because we know we did something.”

They’re working now in studio space provided by the Mellwood Art Center in Louisville, where they did end up adopting a new dog, named Gigi, from a local shelter.

What drives the couple, though, are all the dogs who don’t get out alive — the thousands put down each day.

“The no-kill movement is making strides, but not fast enough,” said Mark who, on those days he doesn’t feel like painting, reminds himself of the bleak numbers, and the 5,500 reasons — every day — he must continue.

To learn more about An Act of Dog, and how to become a sponsor or benefactor, visit its Facebook page or the An Act of Dog website.

(Photos and video courtesy of An Act of Dog: At top, a collage of Mark’s paintings; Mark and Marina in their studio; some of the larger paintings, with Mark’s former dog, Santina, at left; and three shelter dogs dogs Breeze, Freckles and Sky)

Roadside Encounters: Elsie

Name: Elsie

Age: Almost 6 months

Breed: German shepherd/beagle mix

Encountered: At Reynolda Village, in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Backstory: Adopted two months ago by a young couple, Elsie bumped into Ace, quite literally, as we rounded a corner in a collection of shops, restaurants, galleries and businesses known as Reynolda Village. The village was originally built by tobacco tycoon R.J. Reynolds to house workers at his estate.

What was the Reynolds country home is now the Reynolda House Museum of American Art, and it and its surrounding 1,067-acre estate — complete with hiking trails and formal gardens — seems to be pretty dog- friendly (though not leash-free) territory.

Elsie — and our guess is she was headed for K-9 Doggie Bakery and Boutique, just around the corner — was initially taken aback upon running into Ace, but only for a second. Then she seemed mostly curious, and fearless. She sniffed those parts of him she could reach, then attempted to engage him nose to nose, before she and her humans moved on.

To see all our Roadside Encounters, click here.

Night at the museum

In our final days in Baltimore, Ace and I shifted from a house that was empty to one that was very full – of art, and art supplies, and things that, in the homeowner/artist’s view, could, with a little work and imagination, be turned into art someday.

Artist J. Kelly Lane, having an out-of-town house-sitting gig of her own, offered to let Ace and me stay Thursday and Friday in her South Baltimore rowhouse, which, she warned me ahead of time, had its quirks

You know you’re in trouble when you arrive to find a note titled “Weird stuff about my house…” and it’s two pages long.

You know you’re in bigger trouble when, in a house full of art works, you break one of them.

In the wee (literally) hours of the morning, I rose off the downstairs futon to make my way upstairs to the bathroom. I was stepping carefully through the darkness, but my knee hit a stand-up ash tray and knocked it over.

If that alone weren’t bad enough – it’s hard to find ash trays at all these days, let alone the stand up, three-foot high kind — Kelly had apparently applied her artistic skills to this one.

I’m guessing (and hoping) it was a thrift store find –as opposed to a family heirloom — one that, while already the perfect combination of form and function, she saw as being in needed a bit more pizzazz.

Someone, I’m guessing Kelly, had painstakingly painted both its post and the two serpents that make up its handle, which is the part that broke when it fell to the ground.

Now it’s 4 a.m., and I can’t go back to sleep. In addition to the guilt I feel for breaking it in the first place, I’m feeling guiltier yet for what’s popping into my mind:

Glue it back together. There’s a glue gun right there on her shelf. She’ll never know.

Blame it on Ace. With a dog as big as him, in a house filled with so much art, an accident is bound to happen. Right?

Staying at Kelly’s house was like spending a night at the museum. Her paintings cover the walls. Walk in the front door and you’re in what looks like a studio. Enter then next room and you’re in what looks like a studio. Keep going back and you enter what appears to be a studio.

She’s applied her flair to the dwelling, too – like the stair rail and stairway risers painted in leopard skin motif. In addition to painting canvases, Kelly paints house interiors, and she’s into a host of other crafts, like hand-made Valentine’s cards and decorating items like the stand-up ashtray whose handle is now broken.

Bad dog!

No. Making the dog the scapegoat isn’t a good option. On top of not being fair, what a person’s dog does is, in the final analysis, the person’s responsibility.

True, I have in the past blamed him for gaseous eruptions that did not originate from him, but that’s different – dogs are more easily forgiven than humans for that.

Then too, blaming him for the mishap would tarnish his image as the perfect dog. In reality, he’s not perfect – and I wouldn’t want him to be – but he comes a lot closer to it than I do. And when it comes right down to it, I – wrong as it might be – probably care more about his image than mine, except when it comes to farts.

Like a lot of dog people, I worry more about my dog – his health, his reputation, his “proper” behavior – than I do about my own self in those regards.

From previous visits, I knew there would be some risks at Kelly’s house – that a wagging tail, or Ace going into rambunctious “let’s play!” mode, could result in serious damage. As it turns out, it was I, in my pre-coffee, bathroom-seeking clumsiness — as Ace soundly slept — that sent things a kilter. And a standalone ash tray, no less – a true antique that harkens back to the days when smoking wasn’t a misdemeanor, and ash trays were respectable enough to be an entire piece of furniture.

I’d gone more than a month in our previous location – also somebody else’s house — without breaking anything. But then, it being an empty house, there was really nothing to break.

Now I must break the news, and somehow make things right.

Then, and only then, will I be able to go back to sleep.

(Postscript: Kelly was very forgiving, and didn’t seem mad at me. To find out more about her art, contact her at easelqueen@yahoo.com)

We coulda stayed in a wigwam

Ace and I had planned to get across the New Mexico state line Monday, but once we hit Holbrook, Arizona it was close to 6 p.m. So I pulled out my AAA “Traveling with Your Pet” guide to see what lodgings might be friendly, and saw that all four listed accepted pets “with restrictions.”

We hate restrictions.

We’d decided to push on to Gallup when we saw, on the edge of Holbrook, a Motel 6 — the chain that we’ve come to rely on for under $40 a night dog friendliness, with no deposits or restrictions. We checked in there — it’s the nicest Motel 6 we’ve stayed at yet — and I left Ace in the room while I went back into town trolling for somewhere to eat dinner.

It was then I found where I should have stayed. Had I done a little research, or taken 10 minutes to tour the town first, I would have seen it earlier. Now, I’ll have to wait until the next time we pass through to stay at that kitschy monument to thinking outside the box — the Wigwam Motel.

It’s a glorious sight — especially in the modern day world of look-alike, smell-alike, sound-alike motels: 15 individual concrete wigwams perched on a dusty lot.

From the looks of things, it has managed — though it died once — to survive where a lot of other family owned motels, thanks to the Interstate bypassing town, have not.

I stopped in and chatted with Guy Thielman, the great grandson of Chester Lewis, who opened the motel in the 1940s after seeing a similar one in Kentucky.

It was part of a chain, and Lewis — of a mind that if anywhere should have a wigwam motel it was Holbrook — took out a loan and got himself a franchise, or at least something close to that. According to Wikipedia, he purchased the rights to the design, as well as the right to use the name “Wigwam Village” in an unusual agreement: The chain’s owner would receive the proceeds from coin operated radios (30 minutes for a dime) installed in rooms at the Holbrook Wigwam Village.

Lewis closed the motel in 1974 when Interstate 40 bypassed downtown Holbrook. Two years after his death in 1986, his two sons, Clifton and Paul, and his daughter, Elinor, renovated and reopened it and later managed to get it listed on the  National Register of Historic Places.

Seven Wigwam Motels, also known as Wigwam Villages were built between 1936 and the 1950s. Only three are still in operation — in Holbrook, Cave City, Kentucky and near San Bernadino, California.

The other four — now gone — were located in New Orleans, Orlando, Bessemer, Alabama and Horse Cave, Kentucky, where the first one opened.

Holbrook’s Wigwam Motel has a few bonus features as well — a museum of petrified wood and other artifacts accumulated by Chester Lewis, and many vintage automobiles strewn about the parking lot.

The biggest bonus of all, though, is that dogs are allowed, with no deposit required.

I stopped by the wigwams again yesterday to take some photos and ran into a group that was packing up after what they described as an enjoyable and inexpensive evening in their wigwam.

Amber, her friend Shantelle, and Shantelle’s son, Logan, were headed for the Petrified Forest, but they took the time to say hello. Logan immediately bonded with Ace, and invited him into the wigwam.

The three were on vacation, hitting most of the well-known tourist attractions of the southwest — Carlsbad Caverns, Sedona, the Grand Canyon and more. They learned about the Wigwam Motel while Googling things to do along Route 66. Since Shantelle and Amber didn’t have many pictures of the Wigwam Motel, or the two of them together, I put together an album and slapped it on my Facebook page, so they could have access to them.

Logan babysat Ace for me while I wandered around the property taking photos of them, the wigwams and the vintage cars — some of them even older than me.

It’s nice to see an effort to preserve the past, and to see that the old motel — even though bypassed by an Interstate and pounded by the poor economy — is still up and running.

Wigwams forever!

(“Dog’s Country” is the continuing tale of one man and one dog spending six months criss-crossing America. It can be found exclusively on ohmidog! To read all of “Dog’s Country,” from the beginning, click here.)

Pets on Parade at the Visionary Museum

“The best dog-gone parade” in Baltimore is coming up this weekend.

That’s how the American Visionary Art Museum is billing its annual “Pets on Parade” event at 10 a.m. this 4th of July Sunday (with registration starting at 9:30 a.m.).

Participants are invited to dress their pet and compete for trophies that will include Best Costume, Most Patriotic Pet and Most Visionary Pet. Honors will also be given for best pet tricks and owner and pet look-alikes.

Pets of all kinds (on leashes) are welcome and the event is free.

The museum promises plenty of shade and water.

With temperatures in the mid-90s predicted, lightweight costumes — such as this Elvis outfit Frankie wore a few years back — might be a good idea. And, cute as your dog might be in his get-up, removing the costume after the competition and allowing him a dip in the baby pools might also advisable.

History of pet keeping on exhibit in Rockville

Two centuries of pet-keeping is the subject of a Montgomery County Historical Society exhibit opening today at the Beall-Dawson House in Rockville.

Entitled “The Other Member of the Family: Montgomery County Pets,” the exhibit runs through Sept. 13, with an opening reception on Saturday May 9 from 4 to 5:30 p.m.

The exhibit looks at pet keeping from the 19th century through the present, the changes that have taken place over time and what our interaction with pets tells us about society.

In addition to historic images from our collections, the exhibit will feature photographs, paintings and mementos of beloved pets provided by Montgomery County residents.

The exhibit is sponsored by Pro Feed Inc., Heavenly Days Animal Crematory, Whole Pet Central, Sugarloaf Pet Gardens Inc., The Groomery & Olde Towne Bed & Biscuit, Animal Exchange and Living Ruff. In connection with the exhibit, this year’s Montgomery County Heritage Days will host a Pet Expo on Sunday, June 28 on the grounds of the Beall-Dawson House.

The Beall-Dawson House is at 103 W. Montgomery Avenue, Rockville, MD 20850. The exhibit is free with museum admission ($3 adults/$2 seniors & students). It’s open from Tuesday to Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.