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Awakin Calls » Mark Barone & Marina Dervan

Mark Barone & Marina Dervan: Artist, Non-profit, Animal Activist
Jun 17, 2017: An Act of Dog: 5,500 Portraits for Animal Justice



Read: Call Transcript

"Getting sober, 18 years ago, was the most important catalyst and spiritual change in my life. I remember looking down at my dogs and seeing their utter dependency and need for me to be present, and without hesitation, I got up and poured my drink down the sink and never looked back." -- Mark Barone  Soon after the passing of Mark Barone's beloved dogs, his partner Marina Dervan went online to adopt another dog but instead of finding a dog, she learned the chilling reality that approximately 5,500 dogs are put to death each day in the United States. The statistic shook both of them to their core, and less than two days later the vision for An Act of Dog was born. Mark committed to painting 5,500 portraits of shelter dogs in an effort to cultivate awareness and See full.
"Getting sober, 18 years ago, was the most important catalyst and spiritual change in my life. I remember looking down at my dogs and seeing their utter dependency and need for me to be present, and without hesitation, I got up and poured my drink down the sink and never looked back." -- Mark Barone 

Soon after the passing of Mark Barone's beloved dogs, his partner Marina Dervan went online to adopt another dog but instead of finding a dog, she learned the chilling reality that approximately 5,500 dogs are put to death each day in the United States. The statistic shook both of them to their core, and less than two days later the vision for An Act of Dog was born. Mark committed to painting 5,500 portraits of shelter dogs in an effort to cultivate awareness and compassion for animals and raise funds for rescue groups around the country. "My intention as an artist is to put the soul back into these animals that have been lost and ensure that all the rest have a second chance at a beautiful life," Mark says.

Over the past three years he has done just that, painted moving portraits of 5,500 animals fated to be put down, seven days a week and "bearing witness to their fragility and total dependency on us to take good care of them. It has been the most emotionally painful experience that I've ever had-yet the most enlightening and fulfilling."

The portraits are finished and a PBS documentary about the project is nearing completion, but Mark and Marina are far from done with their mission. They are now working with schools and community partners with a plan to host the portraits in an interactive Museum of Compassion where children can come create and learn how to channel their art in service of social change.

Mark Barone is an award-winning artist and narrative painter whose work has been featured in publications and exhibitions nationwide and hangs in collections around the world. He is the CEO of ArtSmartCities, and has consulted with cities across America on how to revitalize underserved neighborhoods through art. His past awards include the Governor's Award in the Arts, American Planning Association Distinguished Planning award, the National award for a Special Community Initiative, and the Rudy Bruner award for Urban Excellence. He devoted his retirement savings to An Act of Dog, and while he doesn't know what the future holds for him as an artist, "What I do know is that my life is no longer about me. It's about contribution."

Marina Dervan is the CEO of "The Honesty Coach", and a corporate executive coach who developed her own system, dubbed "The Conflict Cure," to help people navigate their way through emotional upheaval and harmful mental constructs back to a place of peace and personal power. Her diverse clientele includes CEOs, celebrities, couples, teenagers, political leaders, and the military. All proceeds from her consulting work are donated to An Act of Dog, where she is a full-time volunteer juggling many different roles.


Five Questions for Mark

What Makes You Come Alive?
Mark:The creative process connects us to what matters and what lights us up, and it helps us to enjoy our lives, instead of enduring our lives. As an artist, I have always felt compelled to have a purpose behind my work and to use it as a tool for transformation in the world. My passion is to help the voiceless animals through my paintings and have them stir people in a very deep and real way. Artists have the power to paint visual records of the unpalatable realities of our time and move people to get engaged for compassionate change.

Marina: Having spent most of my life creating compassionate solutions for "people problems" I am most enlivened by the willingness of people to present themselves as they are, with a commitment to having an honest dialogue that is free from conditioned pretenses. Also, being a steward of compassion for animals is what gets me up in the morning and gives me a purpose that transcends my own selfish desires.

Your Greatest Inspiration?
Mark: Getting sober, 18 years ago, was the most important catalyst and spiritual change in my life. I remember looking down at my dogs and seeing their utter dependency and need for me to be present, and without hesitation, I got up and poured my drink down the sink and never looked back. Their love and companionship sustained me in a way I had never experienced from any human being and is what led me to have the compassion for all of the animals being destroyed every day in our shelters and to want to use my talents to be their voice for change. Also, meeting my partner, Marina, was the first time I had experienced someone loving me unconditionally and with such depth.

Marina: When I witnessed the chilling destruction of the helpless animal souls in our shelters, I was speechless and struck to my very core. In that moment, our inhumanity was reflected back to me and I could see their utter dependency on us to do the right thing. It was how Mark and I found our calling.

An Act of Kindness You'll Never Forget?
Mark: A supporter of "An Act of Dog" Natalie Pacheco, made a commitment to helping us by growing flowers to sell, and even though she has a full time job, she spends all of her spare time hand-making dog scarves to raise funds for our charity. Natalie has been the only one who has stayed the course over these very trying past five years and her selfless act of kindness has restored my faith in humanity.

Marina: When filmmakers, Bonnie Silva and Russ Barry, of Sagacity Productions, learned about our project and that, artist, Mark Barone, was painting 5500 portraits of shelter dogs, without hesitation, they made the commitment to film our journey, (even though they did not have the funds to do it) and went to great lengths to get KET/PBS to partner with them for a documentary that had the potential to awaken compassion and show how art and film can be used for social change. They have struggled, but they never gave up on us and have used their kindness and filmmaking talents towards the greater good.

One Thing On Your Bucket List?
Mark and Marina:To see the 5500 portraits up as a wall of compassion exhibit in an interactive, working space that, will have a compassionate business model that shows kids and people from around the world, how to use their art and creativity towards the salvation of animals and social change.

One-line Message for the World?
"Happiness doesn't come from serving yourself, it comes from serving others."


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