Q&A: Carriage Barn Arts Center Plans ‘Art for Animals’ Exhibit


Art For Animals committee with NCPD officer David Rivera and K9 Apollo. L-R: Jeff McCullagh, Stephanie Conti, Rona Siegel, Amy Allen, officer Rivera and Apollo, Hilary Wittmann, Siobhan Sack, Allyson Halm, Sue Bird, Holly Schulz, Jana Harvey. Not pictured: Steve Benko, Gaby Beecher, Marcos Torno, Michael Dinan, Ruth Bagshaw, Kit Devereaux

The Carriage Barn Arts Center this summer is planning a community-wide exhibit of artwork and poetry celebrating the bonds between people and animals. “Art for Animals,” showcasing pieces that reflect people’s love for animals, will run June 2 to 14. Those seeking to exhibit animal-themed paintings, drawings, photography, digital art, sculpture or poetry may register here, for a $20 participation fee. All funds raised through the exhibit will go toward supporting the New Canaan Police Department’s K-9 program. (Sponsors already on board include Bankwell, PRAI Beauty, Stephanie Conti Photography, WAG Magazine, Boyd Law Group and Janaco.)

The exhibit is presented in partnership with Spencer’s Run, and representatives form the dog park will join the Carriage Barn Arts Center in hosting a kickoff event in Waveny from 2 to 4 p.m. on  June 2, with an online auction for a number of animal-themed artwork, items and experiences. 

We caught up with Carriage Barn Arts Center Executive Director Hilary Wittmann to get some more information on Art for Animals. Here’s our exchange. 

New Canaanite: Where did the idea fort the “Art for Animals” exhibition come from? 

Wittmann: We’ve been wanting to add an exhibit to the Carriage Barn schedule that the whole community could get involved with and be part of in some way. Through an initial conversation with Rona Siegel—chair of the Parks & Rec Commission and involved with Spencer’s Run—we came up with the idea for the exhibit, as well as a fun kick-off event in Waveny Park on June 2. Obviously many dog owners who are “regulars” at Waveny will get involved, but also anyone who loves and cares about animals—beloved pets, majestic wildlife or backyard creatures. Animals have always inspired creativity, and this is all about celebrating their beauty and the bonds between us.

What sort of interest has the exhibition garnered since the word started to get out? How many people have registered?  

So much excitement. Many artists and kids are excited to showcase their work in the exhibit, and businesses such as Bankwell, Prai Beauty, Venture Photography and the Boyd Law Group are supporting the program as sponsors. The sculptor Jesse Nusbaum who’s known for his realistic bronze animals is participating and he’s coming to do a live demo at the event. Anyone can register at CarriageBarn.org/animals to participate in this exhibit, but gallery space is limited so register soon.

How did the Carriage Barn Arts Center decide that funds raised through Art for Animals would benefit the New Canaan Police Department’s K-9 program?  

As a local non-profit, we like to do exhibits and events that benefit other organizations too. New Canaan is fortunate to have a K-9 program and Officer [David] Rivera who’s so dedicated to Apollo’s training and the future of the program. This was a great way to educate the community about how we benefit and just how much training and resources are necessary to keep the program going. People can support the NCPD K-9 program by participating in the Art For Animals exhibit, buying artwork, coming to the event or bidding in the auction.

There are many different parts of “Art for Animals” and the Carriage Barn Arts Center is bringing together a wide swath of the community to put it on. What’s one piece of the community-wide effort that you’d like to highlight?  

Yes — we have an awesome committee of people from New Canaan and beyond who are helping with this. In addition to the exhibit of animal-themed art and poetry, the June 2 kick-off event will have art activities and demonstrations, live music and refreshments and a pet parade. Local photographer Stephanie Conti will be setting up a pet photo booth, and our panel of judges including you, Kit Devereaux, Tucker Murphy and Jeanne Mcdonagh will be presenting the awards. There will also be a fantastic auction of “animal friendly” items, original artwork and custom pet portraits.

[Editor’s Note: I’m on the committee for Art for Animals and will be one of the exhibit’s judges.]

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