Boards like s'no other
Humane Society enlists local creatives for first Powder Hounds Art Auction

Boards like s'no other

Pennywise makes an appearance on "You're IT" by Rachel Bishop, seen here at the La Plata County Humane Society. Fifteen local artists donated their work on second-hand snowboards, which will be sold to benefit the animals./Photo by Stephen Eginoire

Zach Hively - 01/10/2019

The old joke in Durango (and probably in other mountain towns) is that you can’t call yourself a local until you have a Subaru and a dog. Arguably, you also need the right gear for your winter sports of choice. Snowboarding may be the most controversial of the options, but now’s the best chance to pick up a new board without earning any muffled scoffs from ski purists. The La Plata County Humane Society is holding its first-ever Powder Hounds Art Auction, featuring 16 repurposed snowboards decked out by 15 local artists.

“The Powder Hounds Art Auction is a month-long, ongoing silent auction of snowboard art, created by local artists who donated their time and their skill to us,” Humane Society Marketing and Development Coordinator Emily Phillips said. They are on exhibit in 11 locations around Durango, and folks can bid on them online through Feb. 3. Proceeds will benefit the Humane Society.

The concept is the brainchild of local artists Wendy Niziol and Ray Phillips (no known relation to Emily). Rather than holding the art auction in a single place on a single night, or packaging it with another event, the couple conceived the format as a way to showcase local artists and, ideally, raise awareness (and funds) for the  Humane Society.

After all, the animals are what the art auction is really all about. Niziol and Ray Phillips were unable to contribute to this story due to snow – perhaps they have yet to invest in the right Subaru – but Emily recounted the auction’s origin story.

A little while back, Wendy and Ray came down to donate at the Thrift Store and saw the shelter dogs in the play yard next door. They decided to head over to say “hi,” and next thing you know, they were getting a tour from the adoption counselor. “Once they left, they said, ‘What can we do to help?’” Emily recalled.

The couple schemed ideas on the drive home. Both are prolifically creative – Wendy works in architecture and photography, Ray in graphic design and mixed media – and so it was only natural they would turn to art as a way of helping the animals. They had seen similar fund-raising concepts in the past with skateboards and wanted to try the idea with snowboards, so they reached out to Emily and Humane Society Director Chris Nelson.

“We were just blown away by this really cool idea,” Emily said. “We have to give a big shout out to Wendy and Ray. They really steamrolled this into where it is now.”

And where it is now is that 15 local artists have put their artistic flourish on snowboards to be auctioned off. The boards – which are for display only and not intended for the slopes – are all repurposed, either collected from the Humane Society Thrift Store or donated by friends of the shelter. Ray removed all the bindings and primed the boards before handing them out to the participating artists, who were given free rein to create on these nontraditional canvases as they saw fit.

Some designs are animal-oriented. Others are character-driven, feature landscapes or are completely abstract. “They each have their own beauty, their own style,” Emily said. And in every case, it’s somehow poetic that a snowboard’s second life will go to support animals, many of whom are themselves looking for their second chances.

Aside from Wendy and Ray (who designed two  boards), the other participating artists are Carol Balke, Lauren Bell, Peter Ladd Berriman, Rachel Bishop, Federico L. Carbone, Chad Colby, Katsola (who goes by one name), Karen Littfin, Donny Phillips, Susie Cheney Ralston, Sandy Rusinko, Kent Wacasey, and one anonymous artist.

Three of these artists, Emily noted, are also employees at the Humane Society. “They all were just excited and happy to do this and to donate their time and their really creative skill that I do not have,” she said, laughing. “That’s what I love about our town. Everyone’s so supportive of the different nonprofits. It’s a great way to get the artists out there to show their work, too ... It’s a really great collaboration.”

The Powder Hounds concept is something different for the Humane Society fundraising slate. The nonprofit has its other annual fundraisers and awareness events, such as the Bark and Wine gala, Bow Wow Film Fest, and Adoptathon. Emily said this is the first time the Humane Society has done an art auction, and it’s an avenue she was excited to explore.

One of the benefits of this format is that bidders are not limited to the Durango area. In fact, the Humane Society is encouraging locals to share the auction with friends outside the city and state. Not only will more competition bring in more funding for the animals, but promoting the event also has the side effect of raising awareness for all that the Humane Society (and other no-kill shelters across the country) does for the community.

“One of our main things is behavioral and medical rehabilitation,” Emily explained. “Every animal that comes in gets assessed, gets an exam, gets vaccines. They get spayed and neutered, and they get microchipped. If an animal has some behaviors that need worked on, we have a trainer and she works with those behaviors to make sure these animals are their best selves when they leave the shelter.”

The Humane Society also provides low-cost spay and neuter clinics and vaccinations to the public. In addition, it provides courtesy holds for displaced animals of community members during whatever difficult times they may be going through. (For instance, the shelter housed more than 130 animals affected by last summer’s 416 Fire.) The shelter also offers a “Senior for Seniors” program that pairs pets older than age seven with people over age 60, and a “Pets for Vets” program for veterans. All this is on top of the regular ol’ adoption services that find homes for dogs, cats and other animals.

All the proceeds from the Powder Hounds Art Auction will go straight back to the Humane Society to support such services, just as Wendy and Ray first envisioned.

Such fundraisers are vital to the Humane Society’s survival, Emily said. “We are a nonprofit. We rely heavily on donations. So we really do look for the community to join us and support our mission, and to know their funds are staying right here locally and are helping the animals, providing the best treatment for them.”

Bidding is live now – and it’s the perfect excuse to spruce up your home with one-of-a-kind local art. And if it all goes well, this style of auction could become an annual event for the Humane Society. Who knows? Maybe next year, artists will paint some Subarus.


Boards like s'no other

This snowboard, "Painted Veil," designed by Lauren Bell, is on display at the Humane Society Thrift Store. Other snowboards are on display at various locations throughout town (see breakout box on opposite page) or online at www.powderhoundsart.com. Bidding ends Feb. 3./Photo by Stephen Eginoire

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