Speaker: Mark Barone & Marina Dervan

An Act of Dog: 5,500 Portraits for Animal Justice

"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.

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