Starting today, Arizona artist Ron Burns will exhibit his work at Perlow-Stevens Gallery in Columbia to help raise money for the Barkley House, a temporary home for sick pets and their families near the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.
The artist reception will be held Saturday from 6-8 p.m. with the live auction of a new piece, “Barkley’s House” at 7 p.m. The painting features Blaze, the spokesdog of the Barkley House.
Veterinary Oncology Professor Carolyn Henry adopted Blaze from the Missouri Pit-Bull Rescue about four years ago. He will also be present at the auction.
Henry first presented plans for the Barkley House in 1999, but the committee is still trying to raise funding to break ground.
When the project receives the $2 million necessary to build and maintain the house, construction will begin. The house will allow families to stay with their pets while they receive treatment at the teaching hospital. An animal being treated with radiation therapy will need to stay in the hospital for 4 weeks, Henry said. Living in a strange environment puts extra stress on these animals.
“What’s frustrating to me is that I have clients every day who make the decision of whether to treat their animal based on the reality of whether or not they can stay in the area,” Henry said. “I’m sure there are a lot of animals we could treat and help, but we can’t because of the distance.”
In summer 2007, Henry sent an e-mail to Rob Burns’ Studio with the mission statement and a request for help. It did not take long for Burns to respond.
“We get hundreds if not thousands of e-mails throughout the year from organizations who hear about the work we do,” Burns said. “When we got the e-mail from Dr. Henry — I read her mission statement and I thought, ‘That’s one cause I’d like to get involved in.’”
Burns has been painting dogs and cats for 15-17 years, he said. He started in the graphic design business, but when he started to get frustrated he picked up a paintbrush because it was something he loved to do.
“When I was looking for subject matter that would make my heart soar, I looked at my dogs and I started painting them,” Burns said. “After a few sold, my wife told me I couldn’t use our ‘kids’ for paintings anymore.”
Burns didn’t have to use his “kids,” three dogs and two cats, for paintings after he visited an animal shelter in Aspen, Colo. He is the artist-in-residence with The Humane Society of the United States.
“I need to find a way to give back to the animals,” Burns said. “I’m not an animal rights activist, but I’d like to see all cats and dogs finding homes within my lifetime.”
Burns work has been displayed in feature films, Extreme Makeover-Home Edition, New York Daily News, San Francisco Chronicle, Forbes and TIME.
Because the Barkley House will be on campus, one goal is to provide veterinary students at the teaching hospital with better client communication skills. Another main goal of the house is to serve as a prototype for similar houses in the future, Henry said.
Burns looks forward to helping the idea get off of the ground.
“I definitely ask that whenever I’m involved with — that people support it in any way they can. Whether they come to my event or do it on their own,” Burns said. “Dr. Henry has a great concept and I hope that it will spread all across the United States.”
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Ron Burns’ pieces at Perlow-Stevens Gallery, at 812 E. Broadway, will benefit the Barkley House. The exhibit will run until March 28.