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Our Real Wealth

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The Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation is holding its first annual benefit on July 24, 2010, in Southampton NY. Nationally known artists, fashion designers, local businesses and talents, and a host of other generous donors have all contributed to an online companion auction at charitybuzz.com. The Southampton Animal Shelter was saved by last-minute privatization only last January, and is a success story still in need of support. Artist April Gornik talks about her involvement with animals in general, and the shelter in particular.

Animal shelters have been making the news lately. The foreclosure crisis has greatly increased their populations, and it's no different here on the eastern end of Long Island. Our local Southampton Animal Shelter was hit especially hard. Only nine months ago, it was announced that it was scheduled to be either closed or its services radically reduced because, as a town-run entity, it was seen as a less important aspect of the town's responsibilities.

The whole community jumped into the fray. A petition was launched, letters were written, and after some resistance, the town agreed to let the shelter be privatized. A guardian angel who had helped build it in the first place, Susan Allen, came back into the picture and by January, we were celebrating: the shelter was saved!

Of course "we humans" have a funny relationship with the beings with whom we share our planet. We eat them, we care for them, we admire them, we use them. An exhibition I curated called "Other as Animal", (Danese Gallery, NYC, till August 6) visually argues the point that animals are, as Henry Beston put it a century ago, "...not brethren; they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth." I chose art for the show that makes an attempt to show the intersection of our shared consciousness.

Shelters, conservationists, those concerned about unnecessary cruelty toward the animals we eat, and people working against species extinction fight to preserve the true riches of our planet, our real inheritance. These are big, critical goals.

On the intimate level, anyone who has loved a companion animal knows the uniquely wonderful experience these "other nations" provide, and their important presence in our shared lives. In their very local way they show us the global truth of our real wealth, our biodiversity. I believe we have a moral imperative, as inadvertent keepers overrunning the planet, to care for them, both for their sakes and for ourselves.

But for right now, I'm going to celebrate the survival of my wonderful, local animal shelter and the fine work it does here in my own backyard.

April Gornik is auctioning one of her Blue Moonlight limited edition lithographs at charitybuzz to benefit The Southhampton Animal Shelter. Visit www.charitybuzz.com/auctions/southamptonanimalshelter for a complete lit of auction items, open for bidding from July 14 to August 18.