A painter whose works fetch thousands of dollars and have been sold to collectors around the world.• A renowned photographer who devotes his talents to helping rescued animals find forever homes. • A volunteer who created whimsical metal sculptures of Fred and Wynona — Pima Animal Care Center's unofficial mascots.
They are three of the more than 70 local artists and collectors who have donated nearly 120 items to the Bow Wow Meow Community Art Auction to raise money for animal medical needs at the county shelter.
“As the only shelter in our community that never turns away a pet in need, we take in many injured pets,” said Karen Hollish, PACC’s development director. “Nearly 75 percent of shelter animals require some sort of medical care during their stay.”
The online art auction to help offset those costs is a first at PACC.
The auction launched last Friday at 32auctions.com/PACCBowWowMeow and ends at 11:45 p.m. Tuesday. Response has been overwhelming, Hollish said.
The initial goal was to raise $5,000. “We reached that on the first day so we upped it to $10,000,” she said. The total could be closer to $15,000 if all of the artwork sells.
Items range from a cloth-and-yarn cat from Chiapas, Mexico, with a buy-now price of $35 to “Horses,” a painting by Esther Rogoway, for $3,500. The buy-now price is fair market value plus about 30 percent, Hollish said.
As of press time Tuesday, nearly 50 items had reached the buy-now price. “Sixty (of the original items) remain to be sold, and almost all of those have bids so people are actively engaged in trying to get them,” she said. More items have been donated since the auction started.
To save shipping costs, buyers will be asked to pick up their treasures at PACC, although a volunteer will help people unable to make the trip.
“It’s been a fantastic way to get the community involved,” Hollish said, adding “we have learned a great deal.”
The original idea was to have a community art auction in the parking lot at PACC last summer. Concern about monsoon rains led organizers to move it online. “People are really into this. It’s fabulous,” Hollish said.
Auction photos posted online also feature adoptable animals along with shelter alumni.
It’s Sunday morning and Michael Kloth is holding his camera near a picnic table overlooking Silverbell Lake. He’s on the return lap most of the volunteer dog walkers take as they return the animals to PACC after giving them a break from the kennels.
As the dog walkers pass, Kloth asks if he can take the dogs’ pictures, recording each animal’s name and kennel number. In addition to the scenic background, taking their photos here is less distracting than the crowded shelter.
He volunteers his time in hopes that his photographs, which show the personality and beauty of each animal, will persuade more people looking at online rescue sites to consider adopting from PACC.
Kloth’s photography business is largely based on portraiture — people and pets. The five canvases of animal portraits he has donated to PACC’s online auction are reminiscent of Richard Avedon.
For those types of portraits, Kloth uses a conference room at PACC as a makeshift studio with white paper as a backdrop. To keep a dog’s attention he may use a noisemaker salvaged from one of his own dogs’ toys. Sometimes dog biscuits are enough. Most cats seem to leave their crates ready to play and explore, he said.
Now that PACC has a part-time adoption promotions specialist, a position funded by grants, Kloth has started working on projects that can be used to promote shelter adoptions and fundraising. One is to build a library of stock photography, another is to photograph adoptable animals in monthly themes — like Christmas in July. He has also been documenting the rehabilitation efforts of a group of animals rescued from hoarders.
Kloth became interested in animal photography years ago when his dog was diagnosed with lymphoma and he wanted to document her life. He also started volunteering in area shelters and enrolled in graduate school. Kloth photographed hundreds of shelter animals, which became his thesis project, and also led to his two books, “Shelter Cats” and “Shelter Puppies.”
Kloth started volunteering at PACC in 2013 soon after he and his wife, Robin, and their three rescue dogs moved to Tucson. He has been heartened by the changes he’s seen at PACC.
“Chances are very good that they are going to find a home,” he said of the animals he meets.
Kloth is also a founder of HeARTs Speak, and is its director of artist resources. The nonprofit is a global network of more than 400 artists, animal photographers, graphic designers, writers, illustrators and advocates who donate their time and services to animal rescue organizations. One aspect is teaching shelter staff ways to take the best photos possible.
Renee Vance has shown her work in Scottsdale, Seattle, Santa Fe, New Mexico, Charlotte, North Carolina, and Pagosa Springs, Colorado. She’s also had works bought by collectors from Germany, Bahrain, Jerusalem and Australia.
“I’ve been painting for quite awhile,” she said with a laugh. Her work is currently at Belleza Gallery in Bisbee, where her paintings, mostly figurative, are listed up to $4,200.
Animals also figure prominently in her work. She didn’t think twice when asked to donate to PACC. “I dearly love all animals,” she said.
A friend of hers who rehabilitates hummingbirds had sent her an email about the auction last year. “I said ‘Heck yeah I want to donate!’” she recalled.
One of the oil paintings she donated is of a roadrunner and the other is of black-crowned night heron “because they come through here.”
Vance moved to Tucson in 1992, and has volunteered with Wildlife Rehabilitation in Northwest Tucson.
The artist grew up with animals. Her first dog as a child was a dachshund. Coincidentally, PACC paired her paintings in the auction photos with a young adoptable dachshund that Vance said she would dearly love to bring home if not for the cat she adopted from FAIR (Foundation for Animals in Risk) about nine years ago.
Vance lives in the desert west of Tucson and has heard neighbors talk about rescuing stray or abandoned animals. She supports PACC’s mission to save more lives.
“They are doing an excellent job,” she said. “I just wish people would be more responsible and have their pets spayed and neutered.”
Mike Samitz isn’t a professional artist.
But the steel sculptures he has made of Fred and Wynona — PACC’s unofficial mascots — were already more than half way to their buy-now price of $300 earlier this week.
The pair of metal sculptures, each 15-inches tall, are seated on hind legs with ball-bearing toes and described online as “the perfect statement piece for the PACC supporter.”
“It’s just something I thought of and decided to try and do. I hope it fetches a lot of money for PACC,” said Samitz, one of PACC’s 200 most active volunteers.
Samitz said it was the second time he made a metal sculpture. “I made one years ago for my wife for her birthday,” Samitz said.
He and his wife have volunteered at PACC for a couple of years. “We had heard they needed help to walk the dogs and other things. We live just down the street from them.” The couple help out wherever needed.
“The last two years have been a lot of good change, positive change,” he said, citing increased adoptions and improved medical care.
“Animals come in and need medical help all of the time. I think a lot of medical care is getting the animals spayed and neutered” so they can go home with adopters without delay. PACC previously contracted that service.
He said he also hopes the auction helps spread the word that PACC is a good place to adopt — noting that it is not the same place it was a decade ago.
Just five years ago PACC’s live adoption rate was 43 percent. It was 84 percent in the last fiscal year — and neared 90 percent in May and June, Hollish said. The industry standard to be considered a no-kill facility is a 90 percent live-adoption rate.
“It’s nice to get the word out that PACC is a great place to get an animal,” Samitz said.
And it can never have too many volunteers. “If you love animals it’s a great place to help. I don’t think they could ever have too many volunteers there.”