Compassion Arts Festival 2018 Celebrates A New View “Through Your Eyes”

October 22nd-27th 2018


Compassion Arts Festival (CAF) celebrates it’s 4th year on October 22nd-27th with a week of film, music, and events to inspire and illuminate. This year’s CAF 2018 events offer a wide range of creative artistry focused on a singular theme Through Your Eyes, to reflect on compelling stories of ordinary individuals from all walks of life, whose deeply personal journeys have led them to have a shift in perception in the way they see non-human animals and the world we share.

Allison Argo and Producer Joe Brunette.jpg
Michael Harren photo.jpg
The Rattle and the Thunder.jpg

Featured programs this October will include two much anticipated Boston premieres: a speaking presentation by six time national Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Allison Argo and the screening of her thought-provoking documentary The Last Pig on 10/23 at Kendall Square Landmark Theater in Cambridge at 7pm and from NYC, a multi-media performance of The Animal Show from acclaimed composer/musician Michael Harren on 10/22 at The Amazing Things Arts Center in a benefit for Maple Farm Sanctuary. Also introduced at that same 10/22 benefit, will be a short concert of songs to open the evening from The Rattle & the Thunder, a new Compassion Arts ensemble piece about transformation with Ellie Sarty, Alfee Westgroves, Donald Vincent, and others. In addition to the festival’s main events, the week will also include small workshops, a narrative healing arts showcase, and an afternoon of talks and discussion at Broad Meadow Brook center at Mass Audubon in Worcester on 10/27 from 1-4pm to launch Creating A Compassionate World program featuring guest speakers from New England Exotic Wildlife Sanctuary, The Vegan Nest, Marlene Narrow of Vegan Nation radio and World Peace Diet workshops, to name a few.


Compassion Arts Festival is an annual event of Compassion Arts, a creative arts and education project for exploring our connection with all life. Past festival events have included presentations at Worcester Art Museum, programs with Culture & Animals Foundation at NYC’s Symphony Space, Jane O’Hara’s Beasts of Burden exhibit, and guest speakers such as Award-winning photojournalist Jo-Anne McArthur, Farm Sanctuary founder Gene Baur, and Lantern Books founder Martin Rowe, among others. Compassion Arts events are made possible through the generous participation of program presenters and the support of partnering organizations and volunteers.

For tickets, schedule, details, or more information about Compassion Arts Festival 2018, please visit or contact

Art Without Animal Cruelty

by Judy Carman

Lovey, rescued chicken at Maple Farm Sanctuary in Mendon, MA.

Lovey, rescued chicken at Maple Farm Sanctuary in Mendon, MA.

It all started when “The Story of Chickens” art project came to town. The artist’s plan for the month-long “exhibit”, which had been funded by a grant, was to display a group of chickens in a mobile pen for 30 days and then publicly kill them and serve them to her audience as a meal.  As I struggled to understand how such an atrocity could be considered “art,” I called city hall and learned to my relief, that such an activity was illegal within city limits.

What happened next brought beautiful creativity into the process.  When the artist learned that her original project would not be legally permitted in the area of the exhibit, she was quite open to our suggestions to use no live chickens at all and to involve our animal advocacy group-- Animal Outreach of Kansas (AOK)-- in her work. She allowed us to display many works of art that were respectful of chickensduring the month’s art exhibit at the gallery. At the end of the month, she hosted a potluck at the gallery and allowed four of us to speak to the audience about the rights of chickens. What began as an impending tragedy was transformed into an opportunity to educate people about animal sentience and their desperate need for liberation from human exploitation. I give the artist a lot of credit for that. Karen Davis of United Poultry Concerns, who helped us throughout the campaign, published a more detailed account of the event in the UPC article, “The Story of Chickens: Closing Night.”

Still, a nagging question hung in the air-- how could the original art project ever have been considered “art” and given a grant? And how could there be so many other animal abusing “art” projects that have caused the suffering and deaths of so many sentient beings? A few examples include: the killing of a chicken in a school cafeteria as a filmed art project; setting fire to three live rats; the killing and displaying of 9,000 butterflies; throwing cats up a flight of stairs; the filming of a man holding a fish while he or she slowly died; and the strapping of LED lights to the legs of 2,000 pigeons and forcing them to fly at night, causing many to die.

It is safe to say that most of these works of art, if done by a non-artist, would be considered animal cruelty and possibly prosecuted. Artists understandably demand free expression, yet none of them would claim that harming, killing, confining or using a human being in such ways would be accepted as art in today’s world. Respected artist for animal advocacy, Sue Coe, whose drawings of animals help awaken people to the horrors that animals endure at human hands, makes it clear that we must bring an end to all use, abuse, killing and eating of animals. Mary Britton Clouse, of the Justice for Animals Art Guild, states, “Art is about ideas. Animals are not ideas. They are as real as we are. Their suffering and deprivation are psychologically and biologically indisputable … No act of self-expression is worth the life or liberty of another.”

So what do we do as supporters of the arts who care about the protection and well-being of animals? Minding Animals International has just introduced a powerful new tool that will help us bring an end to using live animals in art. That tool is the Minding Animals Curatorial Guidelines. One of the goals of the Guidelines committee was “to identify and avoid human exceptionalism / anthropocentrism, which prioritizes humans over animals. Key to CAS [Critical Animal Studies] is a critique of capitalism and globalisation in its role in the domination of people, animals and the earth, but CAS also sees the intersections of all oppression anywhere and for whatever reason as motivation for employing the powerful forces of compassion and social justice...”
This revolutionary set of guidelines for artists and curators will be introduced at the International Minding Animals Conference in Mexico City in January, 2018. Carol Gigliotti, Yvette Watt, Jessica Ulrich and Rod Bennison are the main authors of the guidelines. They are also the panelists of the discussion that will take place at the Minding Animals Conference. They describe the panel as follows:

“Animal Art Exhibitions:  The growth of Animal Studies as a field has been mirrored by the increasing number of animal themed artworks and exhibitions. However, many artists and curators do not properly consider the impact of the artworks and exhibitions on perceptions of nonhuman animals, and on the individual animals themselves. The result has been numerous examples where the animal has been treated disrespectfully, marginalized, exploited, and caused physical and/or behavioral suffering. Animals have been killed as part of or for an artwork. The three panelists, along with Rod Bennison, were charged with developing Curatorial Guidelines for Minding Animals Exhibitions. Designed to avoid inappropriate and unacceptable uses of animals as subjects for artworks in exhibitions connected to Minding Animals International conferences and events, the guidelines may serve as a model for other curators in situations such as galleries, museums, performance spaces who are faced with similar decisions in their choice of what artworks and performances should be supported…”

In addition to this ground breaking panel and set of guidelines, of course, we also have the help and vision of Compassion Arts, vegan and activist artists, ethical university professors and art museum directors, and many others. Together we can find ways to establish firm vegan policies prohibiting all use of living beings in art projects around the world. AOK is currently working with a local art museum to initiate such a policy. I welcome any advice and am also available to discuss any similar projects you may have.


Judy Carman is the author of the award winning Peace to All Beings: Veggie Soup for the Chicken’s Soul; and co-author with Tina Volpe of The Missing Peace.  She is co-founder with Will and Madeleine Tuttle of Circle of Compassion and the Prayer Circle for Animals Facebook. A recipient of the Henry Spira Animal Activist Award, she founded the Animals’ Peace Prayer Flag Project; co-founded, with Lisa Levinson, the Interfaith Vegan Coalition;  and co-founded Animal Outreach of Kansas.

Talking Animals

by Duncan Strauss

(NOTE FROM COMPASSION ARTS - The following article is a guest blog contributed by “Talking Animals” creator, producer and host Duncan Strauss. Talking Animals is a radio program that presents thought-provoking discussion about animal issues through interviews with animal advocates and others. After Compassion Arts learned that Talking Animals would be interviewing Maple Farm Sanctuary founder Cheri Vandersluis, we asked Duncan Strauss if he would write an article for our website to share the story of how he came to develop a program in the communication arts for raising awareness about animal issues. Here is that story with links below to some interviews from his radio show.)

In 2003, I launched Talking Animals—my weekly radio show about animals and animal issues—propelled by two, overlapping impulses.

The first impulse was reflected, a year or two earlier, when I had altered my professional life, concluding it was time to re-direct a career path in showbiz (primarily working as a talent manager) that was proving to be an increasingly mixed bag personally, leaving me ever more unfulfilled.

This triggered the second impulse: Thinking deeply about something significant I could add to my life, whether it was a vocation or avocation, that would involve performing public service—to which I have an almost genetic predisposition. (My parents met in the late 1930s, when they were both providing social services for emigrant farmers fleeing the Dust Bowl. Their lives—together and separately-- were marked by public service, and even though both are gone now, their influence is felt far and wide, perhaps most notably in cultivating college students as public servants of various stripes via The Donald A. Strauss Public Service Scholarship Foundation.)

This, in turn, I reasoned would bring a greater sense of fulfillment.

When that light bulb lit up, I recognized that perhaps the answer was to combine some of my most powerful passions—animals, radio, journalism, music and comedy—and fashion a new broadcast aiming to heighten the virtues, while transcending the shortcomings, of pet and pet/vet shows, and overcoming the limitations of animal rights/vegan programs.

In my first forays on air, I learned a bruising lesson: Just because you conceived a format designed to yield a sharp, entertaining, engaging, and illuminating radio program is no guarantee that you actually have the ability to deliver that program! In my mind, those initial shows constitute one long blooper reel.

Eventually, though, I got the hang of it. And conducting interviews early on with the likes of PETA honcho Dan Mathews and Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson—I had conversations with these internationally–known figures in back-to- back shows just five months after launching the program-- suggested I was on to something with the Talking Animals approach.

That is, I’m not sure how much the punk -rock loving, chic VP of PETA and the flute-twirling progressive rock maestro would find to say to each other. But they each found a lot to say to me. And that’s the truly salient element, given that this is a radio show largely given over to the long-form interview.

Dan Matthews of PETA with Alec Baldwin

Dan Matthews of PETA with Alec Baldwin

In some ways, that’s the way it’s gone ever since—heck, Talking Animals was designed to go that way, even before the Mathews-Anderson sequence (which, truth be told, I cited arbitrarily.)

The mix of guests over, say, a month long period should represent at least two or three people who appear to have little in common, other than some involvement with animals. I do not mind strange bedfellows on the guest list. Heck, sometimes I’m seeking them.

I think that’s where Talking Animals’ educational objective and public service ambition play its strongest card.

If one week, the show features a conversation exploring an intriguing new book about dog cognition, in which a listener can make a direct association to the pooch snoozing nearby in the den, perhaps that listener is more apt to pay close attention in the following week to the expert discussing the plight of animals used in the circus, and remain open in the week after that to the suggestions of a noted vegan chef. And so on.

Toward that end, I’m pleased to say my guests have included Jane Goodall, Alec Baldwin, Dr. Neal Barnard, Temple Grandin, Anita Krajnc, Gene Baur, Kevin Fulton, Cheri Vanderluis, to name just a few, including some who hold directly conflicting philosophies.

Above photos: Gene Baur, Cheri Vandersluis and Dr. Jane Goodall

Above photos: Gene Baur, Cheri Vandersluis and Dr. Jane Goodall

I fully anticipate, as we inch our way into 2017, that this sometimes-improbable mélange of guests will continue on Talking Animals, thereby ensuring (I hope) that this whole is far greater—and richer and more meaningful—than the sum of the often disparate parts.

That’s my broadcast syllabus, anyway, and I’m sticking with it.

Duncan Strauss.jpg

Duncan Strauss is the producer and host of Talking Animals, a radio show with guest interviews about animals and animal welfare issues, animal news and announcements, comedy and songs. Some of the program’s past guests have included Dr. Jane Goodall, Wayne Pacelle (HSUS), Gene Baur, Alec Baldwin, Emmylou Harris, Cheri Vandersluis and many others. Duncan Strauss was formerly a writer for the Los Angeles Times for ten years. He has written for wide variety of television and radio programs as well as articles for The Huffington Post, Palm Beach Post and Deep Roots Magazine. Strauss can be heard hosting Talking Animals every Wednesday 10am – 11am ET on WMNF, a community oriented NPR affiliate in Tampa, Florida.

Visit the Talking Animals website and Facebook page.


In Memorial: Jill Baldarelli

(March 20, 1958 - January 5, 2017)

It is with much love and a heavy heart that we share this memorial tribute to our project's generous friend and committed volunteer Jill Baldarelli, whose supportive contributions were instrumental in Compassion Arts' early development and the launching of the Compassion Arts Festival. Jill was an active supporter and volunteer at almost every event. Her participation was a fundamental piece of the foundation upon which our project was able to take root. Jill shared her time, talent, energy, expertise and resources. She provided extensive assistance in a variety of ways including preparing delicious vegan dishes for potlucks, coordinating volunteers, tabling at programs and at New England Veg Festival, distributing flyers and posters, overseeing power point for presentations, offering office resources and help with problem-solving, outreach, transportation and so much more.

We express our deep gratitude to Jill for her love in action and her openness to exploring the Compassion Arts dream.  We extend heartfelt sympathy to Jill's devoted life-partner of 28 years and her cherished family. We believe that Jill is embraced and welcomed with joy by loved ones on the other side who have gone on before her, including beloved animal companions from her youth and dog Terra. And so although she will be greatly missed, we say Godspeed to Jill as she continues on her journey, but not goodbye, until we meet again.

By Ellie Sarty

The Link Between

by Will Tuttle

World Peace Diet Will Tuttle.jpg

What is the primary link between the outer world we share that seems to be heading toward more intense conflict and the inner world of our attitudes and internalized narratives that gives rise to this outer world? Although it’s overlooked in our culture, it’s food: that primary and existential bridge between the outer and inner. In eating, we take in what is outside of us and incorporate it into the living cells of our being, and it literally becomes this vehicle with which we self-identify and through which we express our awareness, our feelings, and our lives.

Madeleine Tuttle compassionate harvest.jpg

Food is the lost and hidden key to transforming our relationships with each other and with all life, and if we look deeply into our outer problems and dilemmas, we’ll find that it is our practice of animal agriculture—and our inner practice of the attitudes required by this abuse of animals—that imprison us in our bewildering maze of intensifying problems, rendering them overwhelming and insoluble.

We can pause and reflect and savor the situation, and look in a new direction for answers. We can contemplate food and recognize that we were all born into a culture that forced us, virtually from birth, to eat the flesh and secretions of certain animals who are bred, confined, attacked, and killed for this purpose. We can grasp the significance of this, that early on, we are injected with the habit of disconnecting the reality that is on our plate from the reality required to get it onto our plate. We can learn to appreciate the weight of this, and that the prime taboo in this culture is honestly discussing the pervasive negative ramifications of using animals for food and other products. The reason it is such a potent taboo is that, in our hearts, we yearn to live in a world of kindness and respect for all life, and we know better.

We naturally feel a kinship with animals, so we repeat to each other many inaccurate narratives to justify our relentless mistreatment of them, but the main weapon in our ongoing oppression of animals is our learned disconnectedness and our inner compartmentalization: we turn away, numb our feelings, and create inner walls that block awareness. All the primary institutions in our culture (religion, science, media, family, government, business, and education) cooperate to keep our catastrophic abuse of animals well hidden, ignored, trivialized, and accepted.

By consciously practicing respect and kindness in our meals we create the foundations for authentic positive change in our society. The world peace diet approach to living is a two-step process. First, bringing our outer lives into alignment with inclusiveness and compassion through adopting a vegan lifestyle, and second, bringing our inner lives into alignment with this through inner purification practices such as meditation, inner listening, and inner questioning so that we can heal the attitudes injected into us from infancy by the pervasive herding culture of materialism and exploitation. As we change ourselves by resensitizing ourselves to our true nature, we become authentically capable of exemplifying and sharing these positive changes with others, and we can see signs of this happening all around us. Healing our inner corruption, we can co-create a society and leadership that mirrors this. We will be worthy of a world of harmony and freedom when we give cows, pigs, chickens, fishes, and other animals harmony and freedom, and when understand our true nature and let it guide us in our relationships with others.

(Images: World Peace Diet book cover and paintings by Madeleine Tuttle, Compassionate Harvest, Alive!, Living the Dream, and Companion Forever…  To see Madeleine’s art and learn more about her work visit

Dr. Will Tuttle, visionary author, educator, and inspirational speaker, has presented widely throughout North America, Europe, and the Pacific. Author of the acclaimed Amazon #1 best-seller The World Peace Diet, which has been published in over 15 languages, he is a recipient of the Courage of Conscience Award as well as the Empty Cages Award. The creator of several wellness and advocacy training programs, he is also co-creator of VeganPalooza, the largest online vegan event. The editor of a recent book on the interconnection of social justice issues, Circles of Compassion: Connecting Issues of Justice, he is also the co-founder of the non-profit Circle of Compassion and the Worldwide Prayer Circle for Animals. A vegan since 1980, he is a frequent radio, television, and online presenter and writer. He is featured in the acclaimed documentary film Cowspiracy as well as other documentaries such as Vegan: Everyday Stories; Hope For All; and Animals and the Buddha.

Dr. Tuttle’s Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, focused on educating intuition and altruism in adults, and he has taught college courses in creativity, humanities, mythology, religion, and philosophy. A former Zen monk and a Dharma Master in the Korean Zen tradition, he has created eight CD albums of uplifting original piano music. With his spouse Madeleine, a Swiss visionary artist, he presents extensively throughout North America and worldwide at college campuses, spiritual centers, conferences, and peace, social justice, animal protection, health, and environmental gatherings. To learn more about Dr. Tuttle and his work visit or

We Animals, Martin Rowe and Jo-Anne MacArthur

by Jane O'Hara

We Animals , Jo-Anne McArthur

We Animals, Jo-Anne McArthur

I was happy to have the chance to catch Martin Rowe in Pleasantville, NY in Professor Angelo Spillo’s classroom at Pace University. Rowe’s presentation was a part of a series of presentations and activities at Pace University for their Earth Month celebration. I had heard Martin Rowe speak last year at the Compassion Arts Festival with the same program, We Animals, with his personal interpretation of Jo Anne McArthur’s photographs. Rowe is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Lantern Books and publisher of We Animals, as well as well as nearly 300 other socially relevant books. In We Animals, McArthur’s work reveals the barriers we have built which allow us to treat animals as objects as opposed to sentient beings. Her images document the plight of animals across global industries.

But it wasn’t a repeat presentation as it turned out - though that would have been fine - as Rowe’s presentation so richly investigates the depths of Jo-Anne McArthur’s important work. Rowe is a writer himself, and among many other accomplishments, he has a master’s degree in Religious Studies. It was this part of Rowe’s background that played a large part of this discussion of McArthur’s work the other morning. With her compositions and use of dark and light he drew parallels to religious works and enlightened us on how with this unique perspective McArthur shows us a completely different animal.

Martin Rowe's presentation on  We Animals

Martin Rowe's presentation on We Animals

There is no end to my interest in McArthur’s hauntingly beautiful work. I have my own history with her. I was pleased to have her join the exhibit I curated of 13 artists in 2014, Beasts of Burden, first held at the Harvard Allston Education Portal Galleries. She will join us again when we go to our next destination in 2017 at Los Angeles’ National Museum of Animals and Society (NMAS). Martin Rowe and I share a strong interest in Jo-Anne McArthur’s work, along with her wide audience. The documentary The Ghosts in Our Machine is Liz Marshall’s powerful documentary focused on McArthur’s journey to record these ‘ghosts’ and get exposure for her revealing work. Not surprisingly it’s a tough challenge as so many refuse to report on these animals, even generally compassionate, truth seeking publications. Lantern Books, however, has published the book We Animals and it is a worthy tribute.

As an artist I unknowingly started to include one of McArthur’s images into my The Rabbit Hole painting, of a rabbit at the butcher. I found the image online and later discovered it was McArthur’s! When asked she generously allowed me to use the image in my painting and was pleased with the idea.

Rabbit Hole , Jane O'Hara

Rabbit Hole, Jane O'Hara

To have Martin Rowe give his unique presentation on Jo Anne McArthur’s work is so perfect. While her work certainly speaks for itself, Rowe’s insights bring attention to the historical implications of her point of view. In the religious artwork context and with his comments on the meaning behind a face turned away, or up, the use of shadows I was able to understand a new level of why these photographs are so important.

About this blogger: Jane O'Hara is an artist and curator whose paintings make visible animals in today's society; those adored, as well as hidden ones in captivity for our use. O'Hara is the recipient of the Peace Abbey's Courage of Conscience Award and the curator of "Beasts of Burden," an exhibit in which she is also a contributor, that features  the work of 14 artists whose range captures the complex ways in which animals have influenced our lives.

Celebrating The Culture and Animals Foundation on Earth Day

by Ellie Sarty

Folk artist Jacob Knight created this celebration for the animals at the request of the Cartin Foundation, which subsequently gifted the painting to Culture and Animals Foundation.

Folk artist Jacob Knight created this celebration for the animals at the request of the Cartin Foundation, which subsequently gifted the painting to Culture and Animals Foundation.

Earth Day is a time when we make a conscious note to celebrate the earth and the life on it (including animals) for whom it is home. For me, Earth Day is a time to reflect on love for life.  Love for life and the earth is not specific to humans. It is inherent in all individuals (non-human and human) and it roots us together as kindred family on our shared planet. This year, I choose to honor Earth Day by celebrating this love in sharing about the work of The Culture and Animals Foundation.


For a heartfelt and thought provoking re-awakening into the meaning of compassion and what kind of world we want to create, I recommend visiting the Lantern Books Youtube channel to view “Honoring and Celebrating Tom and Nancy Regan: The Culture and Animals Foundation”. This compilation of videos by former CAF grant recipients was organized by Martin Rowe and is not only a moving tribute but is also an informative reference. The tribute shares both personal stories of gratitude for Tom and Nancy Regan’s work as well as the ways that The Culture and Animals Foundation has supported positive work for animals. Compassion Arts contributed a video montage for this tribute, Culture and Animals: Love in Action, beautifully crafted by Laurie Johnston of Two Trick Pony. We used a song of mine from a project that was funded by a CAF grant years ago, instrumental in seeding what is now Compassion Arts today.  

Culture and Animals Foundation

For those unfamiliar with The Culture and Animals Foundation (CAF) , I urge you to explore their website and the many endeavors that CAF has helped support over the last 30 years. Founded in 1985 by Tom and Nancy Regan, CAF is “a cultural organization expanding understanding and appreciation of animals — improving the ways in which they are treated and their standing in human society. CAF believes that through the arts we can awaken people to the plight and grandeur of kindred animals–and ultimately build a deeper understanding of human-animal relationships and a greater respect for animals. In seeing and understanding kindred animals, we see and understand a part of ourselves.”

Tom Regan

If you wish to take a deeper journey into the work of CAF co-founder philosopher Tom Regan, his writings span 40 years in books such as The Case for Animal Rights, Empty Cages and other thought provoking essays and articles. A founding pioneer on the moral rights and inherent value of all “subjects-of-a-life”, (human or non-human), Mr. Regan reasons in his work that respect for basic rights of sentient beings includes the right not to be treated merely as a means to the ends of others. He shows in his writings that this philosophy is not founded on any radical new fringe theory of ethics, but rather that it follows from an existing and “consistent application of moral principles and insights” that humans already hold. Click here to read more.


I once saw a quote that read, “Love is an action. Love, the feeling, is meaningless without love, the verb.” I think of people like Tom and Nancy Regan when I consider this thought and I thank them for having courage to live their truth. Tom Regan has been a transformative voice for animals long before there was a movement or support for such work. I reflect on how walking the talk of “love in action” can seem difficult in the real world but how The Culture and Animals Foundation has always remained consistent as a peaceful organization nourishing respect for life through awareness and nurturing creative positive thought.  

This Earth Day I thank the individuals (human and non-human) who have helped show various paths in the journey to our true nature of compassion. I thank the Earth for her patience and forgiveness as we work to remember and rekindle our shared and inherent love for life. And I thank The Culture and Animals Foundation for being a vessel for this love in action.

“The earth is what we all have in common” (Wendell Berry, poet)
Photo at 

About this blogger:  Ellie is an animal advocate, singer, songwriter,  and Compassion Arts creator and founding member volunteer.  

Jane O'Hara, Joy Askew and Gretchen Primack: A Program on Compassion for Animals

by Celia Watson Seupel, guest blogger

“Right Here” by Jane O'Hara

“Right Here” by Jane O'Hara

It’s Wednesday April 13 th , early morning. The sun is just striking the tops of the buildings, the traffic is still rousing itself, and the streets are quiet. I pick up the singer/songwriter Joy Askew from the corner of 77 th and Lexington Avenue, NYC in my van. We are heading for a celebration of animals and compassion in Pleasantville, New York.

Throughout the entire month of April, The Nature Center at Pace University in Pleasantville will host events, performances and educational activities for Earth Month.

Today, Compassion Arts is presenting, “Animals and Culture in Art.” Poet Gretchen Primack and painter Jane O’Hara will be joining with Askew to create a multi-dimensional event. The performance will raise awareness of the need for compassion towards animals, including farm animals and wildlife, while also demonstrating a kind and creative way of communicating that message. Sometimes, by using arts and culture, the message of compassion can be more profoundly offered and understood in a different way.

The Nature Center at Pace is part of the Dyson College Institute for Sustainability and the Environment. Its main purpose is to promote general education and awareness around environmental and sustainability issues. A perfect place to celebrate and talk about the lives  of animals! A big shout out and thanks to Angelo Spillo for helping to make this special event happen.

Gretchen Primack, Poet

Gretchen Primack, Poet

Primack, who says she’s interested in writing poetry that raises consciousness, starts off by reading from her powerful book, Kind. From “Ringling,” an elephant’s musing begins:

Maybe someday you will trick
for me.
Maybe I will find value in you
on one foot.

Primack’s poems punctuate O’Hara’s compelling presentation of her paintings. As O’Hara shows us large, projected images of her paintings on-screen, she tells us more about her journey to veganism and her paintings’ symbolic meaning. O’Hara tells us that she believes the only way people can continue to do what they do to animals is to avoid the reality. “People need to believe these [animals] are not sentient beings,” she says. “I want to talk about what happens to animals in the real world.” Not to shock us with graphic horrors, but to help us understand animals as the individuals they truly are.

Jane O'Hara, artist

Jane O'Hara, artist

Blue Ribbon by Jane O'Hara

Blue Ribbon by Jane O'Hara

For example, in the painting “Blue Ribbon,” with her surrealistic mix of symbolism and fine realistic detail, O’Hara explains, “the calf is scared, isolated.” Separated from mother and security, maintained as an object.

In the second half of the presentation, Askew plays across the spectrum of our emotions with her plaintive and powerful songs.

Joy Askew, Singer/Songwriter

Joy Askew, Singer/Songwriter

In one song, Askew chants a poem of Primack’s backed up with her previously recorded, haunting chorus of “Mercy,” the poem’s title:

“… Our mouths
are glossed with fat.
Leave your gods
at the door:
there is no room here
for even one …”

“We have choices,” says Primack. “It’s about respect, the use and abuse of power.” Students come away from the 1 ½ hour presentation moved. “It was very powerful,” says Jessica Pernicaro. “I like how they used the different mediums to present the message.”

Devin Newman, an older student and also a veteran, says, “It’s good for the younger kids to have these perspectives.” Newman, who is not vegan but has lived with others who are, adds, “It’s about where you put your money. Every dollar you spend is a vote! I wish the performance had been larger, a bigger venue. This would hit home for a lot more people!”

As a center committed to the environment, says Spillo, animal enrichment and compassion are a natural fit. He hopes to do another, larger Compassion Arts event in the near future.

About our Guest Blogger: Celia Watson Seupel is a poet and journalist who lives in New York City. Her books include a memoir about trying to save her brother from obesity, Eating the Shadow.

Introducing the Compassion Arts Blog

Welcome to the Compassion Arts blog. Here weekly blogs will be posted by the Compassion Arts team and guests writing on compassion, creativity, animals, nature, environment, art, music, books, plant based culinary arts, recipes, veganism, writings, dance, theatre, film and video, inspirational stories, events, transformational programs and projects, organizations, humane education and peaceful positive food for thought. If you would like to suggest a guest to write for one of our blogs in the future please email us at