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Art auction helps ensure injured animals are cared for in Manitoba


At the Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre, feathery friends are counting on Manitobans to support a timely fundraiser. This month’s Hometown Hero focuses on two artists who are making an online auction happen.

Since 1984, the non-profit organization has been a pillar of hope in the community for wild birds, mammals and creatures in need of medical care. With four decades of experience treating animals, the goal is to one day release them back into the wild.

For the fourth year in a row, the organization has brought back its online art auction for 11 days which started Feb. 9. After putting a call out to the community, dozens of Manitoba artists have donated works of art to help the organization improve its care for wildlife.

“One hundred and sixty-five items is a record for us,” said Zoe Nakata, Executive Director of Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre.

“It's our largest collection so far, which we're so thankful for. We've got artists that are making custom pieces for us that are donating originals worth over $3,000, and they've embraced this event, which is really heartwarming.”

This year, Wildlife Haven received 165 pieces of art for their online auction. The auction includes a collection of paintings, sculptures and carvings made and donated by Manitoban and Canadian artists. Joseph Bernacki/CTV News Winnipeg

With springtime on the horizon, Wildlife Haven anticipates an influx of patients from bird migration and animals coming out of hibernation. Winnipeg artist Lisa Whitehouse said she was drawn to help the organization.

“I think it's great to donate my art, something that I love doing to support a great cause like this and I love animals, they're my inspiration so being able to give back to them is really important to me,” Whitehouse said.

“There's so much talent in Manitoba and I think Manitobans in particular are great about supporting local artists.”

Lisa Whitehouse recently completed this watercolour painting of a fox with chickadees. For nearly a decade, her inspiration from nature continues to serve as the main subject when it comes to deciding her next piece to create. Joseph Bernacki/CTV News Winnipeg

Whitehouse is the owner of Whitehouse Art and has been honing her watercolour technique for nearly a decade. This year Whitehouse donated a painting of a wolf called Gray Sky for the auction. It’s a process that starts from her sketchbook and is then used as inspiration for a canvas.

“It sort of varies depending on the piece, something like that I would’ve sketched out and spent a couple of weeks exploring the subject matter before going into the final one,” Whitehouse said.

“You’d see in my office during that time a few smaller sketches of the same thing before going a bit larger. It usually takes about two weeks from start to finish.”

Whitehouse has had her art featured at Assiniboine Park Zoo and the Winnipeg Humane Society. She is not the only artist stepping up to help Wildlife Haven.

In Charleswood, retired art teacher Philip Brake could not pass up the opportunity to donate and take his dye on silk technique to canvas. His piece called Fallen Log was created from memories of growing up in Fresno, California.

“We were pretty close to Yosemite National Park so we used to go up to the mountains quite a bit so that influences a lot of my art,” Brake said.

“I just remember streams and pools and fly fishing with my dad and poppies in California and those kinds of themes have always taken me back.”

Philip Brake puts the final touches on a canvas inspired by the topography of Lac Du Bonnet. The Charleswood artist has been using a dye on silk technique since 2008. Joseph Bernacki/CTV News Winnipeg

Brake donated a piece of art last year and originally started as an art instructor in 1982. After working at Miles Macdonell Collegiate, Grant Park and Sisler High School, Brake retired in 2010.

Two years before his retirement, he learned the dye on silk technique he now uses today to create large-scale nature-themed works for his business, Phil Brake Art. It is quite the step-by-step process after he chooses a piece of silk, stretches it on a board and elevates it for a flat surface.

“First I draw everything on the piece in watercolour pencil,” Brake said.

“Then I use these little bottles of resist that create barriers in the silk so that when I add the dye, it cannot run outside of the barriers. I go over the whole piece to create countless barriers and then when I’m finally done with that I can add the dye on top.”

After that work is done, Brake said he takes the silk board and rolls it up between newspapers so it can be steamed and hung in a stovepipe for an hour and a half over a boiling kettle outside.

“After that I unroll it and wash it and it’s transformed, the colours have completely changed,” Brake said.

“They are much more vibrant. I wash out the excess dye, iron it, and then I can wrap it around a board and send it off to my framer.”

Brake’s art has been featured at the Buhler Gallery, Assiniboine Park Pavilion and he plans to do an art demo for the Exchange District’s Soul Gallery for anyone wishing to learn how to paint on silk on March 16.

For this year’s online art auction, Wildlife Haven has arranged for some of their animal ambassadors to also take part in the painting process.

Certain birds and animals who no longer can live in the wild based on their condition are taken care of by the organization and called ambassadors. Léo, the four-year-old turkey vulture is just one of the wildlife ambassadors ready to put feet down to paint.

“It’s one of my favourite parts of the auction,” Nakata said.

“Either they walk through the paint and create a masterpiece on the paper, we’ve got a few different techniques. We thought why not put up for bid an experience for someone from our community to be able to create a piece of art with an ambassador.”

Ash, a six year old female Great Gray Owl is one of several ambassador animals that live under Wildlife Haven’s care. Originally imprinted by humans, the owl will remain under the organization’s care for the rest of its life due to it not experiencing the survival instincts it needs to live in the wild. Joseph Bernacki/CTV News Winnipeg

The fundraising goal for Wildlife Haven’s online art auction this year is $20,000 with the Bob Williams Foundation matching a donation of up to $20,000 in February.

The organization said they were able to treat 2,300 animals of 175 different species by the end of 2023. The auction wraps up on Feb. 19 and more information can be found at Top Stories

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