Artists, Animal Lovers Join Forces

BY DAWN BAUMGARTNER VAUGHAN, The Herald-Sun
July 13, 2006 �  10:00 am

DURHAM -- Linda Varosi's beagle was rescued from the highway and her two cats from parking lots. Glenda Alexander's three cats were all rescues. Paula MacLeod saw a feral cat problem in a local neighborhood solved by Independent Animal Rescue of Durham.

All three women are a few of the more than 30 artists who have lent their skills to the Independent Animal Rescue's fourth annual fundraiser Painted Chair (and more) Auction being held from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Saturday at Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Durham.

Alexander has donated a quilted wall hanging of a cat. Last year she donated a decorative fiddle painted with a possum and raccoon.

"I'm a dog and cat lover and a pet owner. I just enjoy them and like having them around," Alexander said. "I really feel for the abandoned animals I see. I wish people would be more responsible and spay and neuter their animals."

The Independent Animal Rescue's major annual fundraiser brings in about $5,000 for foster, feral cat, spay/neuter and dog behavioral training programs. The organization also has rehabilitated and adopted out nearly all of 19 animals rescued from Hurricane Katrina.

Ranjani Manjunath, IAR president, was the organization's volunteer coordinator when she and a board member planned the first auction. The first year auctioned painted chairs by 34 local artists. The following year it was expanded to include other furniture, and the past two years have included other pieces of art as well.

There will be pottery, jewelry, photography and paintings up for auction along with the chairs and other furniture. The evening will feature a silent auction for 40 gift certificates and items donated by local businesses, followed by a live auction led by local auctioneer Jerry Wade. There will also be live music, hors d'oeuvers and a cash wine bar.

Contributing artists range from professionals to amateurs and also include local middle and high school students.

Betsy Bickel of Durham said she is not an artist and had never painted a chair until recently. But a friend requested she make one and she thought it would be a fun project. Her wooden chair -- bought from Goodwill -- is painted blue, pink, orange and green and has the words "VIP Reserved for You" on the seat.

MacLeod is a self-taught mosaic artist who also teaches and has been a recipient of the Durham Arts Council Emerging Artist Grant. She is behind Flower Soup Mosaics and combines traditional mosaic materials of marble and smalti with found objects or broken plate.

Her contribution to this year's auction is a mosaic piece of wall art made with stained glass. It is a simple black, white and gray gestural design of a cat. In previous years, she has donated a painted chair and a mosaic mirror for the auction.

MacLeod usually does people portraits, not animals, but wanted to make something for the organization that relocated feral cats from a friend's neighborhood. IAR does great work, she said.

Varosi has donated painted chairs the past two years. This year she has donated a mixed media shrine to Mexican artist Frida Kahlo in memory of two family members who were rescuers of stray dogs and cats and animal lovers themselves. She plans to donate more art for future auctions.

"As an animal lover and artist it seemed a perfect opportunity to help IAR with the difficult struggle to help our animal population while doing something I love and would do anyway," Varosi said.

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WHAT: 4th annual Painted Chair (and more) Auction to benefit Independent Animal Rescue

WHEN: 6:30 to 10 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 4907 Garrett Road

COST: $10 advance, $15 at the door.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Visit our paintedchairs section.