While skimming the headlines of the Dallas Morning News’ Inspired section, we came across an unexpected article that combined two areas that we are deeply passionate about – rescue dogs and the students at Booker T.
The Rees-Jones Foundation has long supported the students of Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts through multi-year funding for the Student Assistance Fund which provides financial assistance for low income students that helps them access needed resources related to their craft such as auditioning for college, educational materials and enrichment opportunities.
The Foundation also supports organizations that work to prevent animal cruelty through rescue and rehabilitative care and find permanent homes for companion animals.
We were thrilled to see two areas of interest intersect organically when the art students at Booker T. partnered with Artists for Animals to create artwork of shelter dogs to be auctioned off at Concert for Kindness on March 8, 2020.
Dallas Morning News article: Shelter dogs help Booker T. Washington students practice their art and their compassion
As the day starts, two pit bull puppies up for adoption, Russet and Ruby Roo, proudly walk into an art class at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, ready for their close-ups.
As students ooh and aah over the four-legged models they are about to draw, they quickly snap photos and videos in case their subjects get restless and they need to remember a detail. Senior Ashley Mendoza chooses to focus on Russet, who resembles a chunky potato. “He was really cute, and he was nice and fat,” Mendoza says. Soon the pups finish their session, and the classroom grows quiet as students focus on their drawings.
The art experience is a collaboration between teacher Kyle Clark and Artists for Animals, which raises awareness for homeless animals through concerts, art shows and auctions. Over the past 10 years, they’ve raised over $300,000 for local shelters.
The assignment requires two drawings per dog. Mendoza did a line drawing of Russet, who was surrendered by his owner. Then she’ll do a final drawing in paint or watercolor.
The finished artworks will be auctioned off at this year’s Concert for Kindness on March 8, presented by Artists for Animals. All the proceeds benefit local animal rescues. In addition to the students’ drawings, the event will feature dancers, musicians and other images.
“What they do as artists is not just for art galleries,” explains Teresa Berg, co-founder of Artists for Animals. “It’s for the community. It’s to give them a voice. It’s to raise money for the animals.”
Amanda Newman works for The Love Pit, a rescue group that focuses on changing the way the public perceives pit bulls. She brought in Russet and Ruby Roo and was impressed by the students’ reaction to the dogs and their work ethic. “I love it,” she says. “I wanted to be a high school history teacher, so this is my segue into inspiring the next generation of philanthropists.”
It’s a win-win situation as animals get the exposure for adoption, and young artists get to show off their work and add to their portfolios, all the while learning about animal neglect and abuse. (Ruby Roo has been adopted since her modeling session.) And sometimes, art students fall in love in the classroom and end up adopting a model.
“A lot of my work focuses on animals, so I really want to do something with that, maybe at an animal shelter,” Mendoza says.
About Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts
Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing & Visual Arts is part of the Dallas Independent School District and the first secondary school in the district to be awarded the prestigious National Blue Ribbon Award for Exemplary Education from the Department of Education. Since 1976, the school has earned the distinction for Exemplary Arts Education from the Rockefeller Foundation, one of the Top 8 Magnet Schools in the country by the Department of Education, and one of the top 5 schools in the nation by the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts, among others.
The mission statement states “As Dallas’ revolutionary high school for 21 century scholar artists, we provide intensive, integrated training to build a bridge to the post-secondary and professional world”. Arts Magnet prepares students to attend college, conservatory or to enter the professional field.
Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing & Visual Arts is located in downtown Dallas, in the heart of the Dallas Arts District. The largest contiguous Arts District in the United States.
About Concert for Kindness
Artists for Animals raises awareness for homeless animals through concerts, art shows and auctions. Over the past 10 years, they’ve raised over $300,000 for local shelters.
Animal Welfare Organizations Supported by the Rees-Jones Foundation in 2019:
Learn more about the nonprofit organizations that the Rees-Jones Foundation supports by visiting www.rees-jonesfoundation.org/our-grants