I am writing this about one week after leaving Martignano, Italy and, as a follow-up to my previous blog, “The Power of 10”, I am happy to announce good news and a lovely ending to a perfect artist residency at MIRA – and a couple of nice stories about the dogs of Martignano, which had become a focus of my painting and time there.
To summarise, it seemed that Martignano has successfully found a way to care for the stray dogs in the town in an area of Italy where stray and abandoned animals are a big problem. One lovely man (who incidently pays out of his own pocket when the dogs require being de-sexed or are in need of medical attention), told me of growing up with 5 or so of these dogs that are now about 10 years old. He recalled that the dogs would play football (soccer) with the children and seemed to even understand the point of the game. They gave the dogs names and the townspeople came to recognise and call them by name.
When you ask about the dogs, they are quick to tell visitors an amazing (and true) story of how special and so much a part of the community these dogs have become. It seems that when someone in the town passes away, the dogs convene and actually lead the funeral procession to the deceased’s house, as a miraculous show of respect! How special is this relationship and these particular dogs, not to mention show how much these animals can sense way beyond our normal expectations.
At the end of July, I participated in an exhibition at the Palazzo Palmieri in Martignano (along with 3 of the other MIRA artists). Of 7 canvases, 2 were of the local dogs that lived there – Turbo and the wee dog I called “Bella”. In my artist statement, I stressed the need for a continuing fund to help these and other dogs in the town, in order that a few caring individuals providing food and necessary medical care for them had some further support, and not have to pay out of their own pockets. I was happy to give a small percent of any sales toward starting this fund and urged anyone wanting to help in any way, to contact the local council. It occurred to me that the successful relationship between the people of the town and the dogs would potentially stop if these few people were ever to move on, or if funds were limited. It was my hope that a regular source of funding be available through donations and that this would be a much more suitable solution than a “dog pound” approach. I also believe it is possible that the example set by Martignano, could be followed by the other towns in southern Italy (as a start).
Of the hundreds of visitors during the San Pantaleone weekend festivities in the town, ultimately the most important visitors to the exhibition were a few local children. As it turned out, they were moved by my artist statement, and realised how much a part of their lives these dogs had actually become! And they came to me eagerly with the perfect solution! Just as these dogs were being cared for by a handful of people who grew up with them, it made perfect sense that the children of Martignano as the next generation, should now take over the responsibility for the care of the dogs. It should be easy to organise themselves to take turn in caring for the dogs, perhaps with the help of their teachers and parents. Regular donation drives for a small fund would help with any costs. And even if just a few of them ultimately watch out for the animals as time went by, it would still be a wonderful result for a successful and ongoing process of care.
I left the town and MIRA with the feeling that my time there was very worthwhile, not only for the artistic experience, but for the opportunity to learn more about this lovely relationship I was witnessing. I hope the people of Martignano continue to successfully solve the problem of stray dogs in the area by including them in their lives and remaining a charming addition to the community. I also hope that surrounding towns are able to learn from this and trial it for themselves. It’s a beautiful relationship worth keeping, and I felt privileged to have seen it work with my own eyes. Thank you Martignano and thank you to MIRA residency for artists! I invite you to have a look at the resulting paintings from my time there at cathrynmcewen.com