Saturday, March 30 marked the opening of the newest museum in Los Angeles, the Animal Advocacy Museum. “There’s a museum for Spam and one for everything else, there should be one for animal advocacy, too,” says co-founder Patty Shenker.
Together with her partner Prabhat Gautam, they decided to get the long-dreamt-of museum open on a small scale rather than wait any longer for a larger and more ambitious opening. With advice from Karen Moning, who was instrumental in the opening of the Simon Weisenthal’s Museum of Tolerance, they were all in accord that “if you build it, they will come.”
And come they did. Hundreds of activists from around Los Angeles and Orange County bought tickets, many of them opting for the VIP $100 reception. There was vegan food (including a couple of platters from Real Food Daily), organic juices made on the spot by Rawsheed, wine and beer, samples of Cavewoman Bars, and other delights. And the event was happily facilitated by dozens of volunteers.
The physical museum opened in two rooms and an added rented hall for the evening from the Throop Unititarian Universalist Church in Pasadena. (Throop is a very animals friendly church, offering vegetarian food after services and vegan cooking classes.) Although the physical space is modest, the idea of the museum in the minds of the founders and guests is as grand as the sky.
The Animal Advocacy Museum will be a place to showcase and educate about all forms of animal advocacy and veganism, through art, dance and other exhibits, events for kids, fundraisers and lectures, and even open the space to other activists for human rights. “The two go hand in hand,” Patty and Prabhat explained to the crowd.
Indeed the smaller of the two rooms is already devoted to activist art for other than animal causes. The idea is that when human activists meet and educate they also will be educated about the plight of animals today and what must be done to help liberate them.
Prabhat says, “When you bring people from different perspectives together, you never know what’s going to happen.” He reminded us that lawyers who were at one time fighting each other on the election of Bush v. Gore are now working in unison on gay rights.
The opening exhibit includes art works from the collection of Patty Shenker and Doug Stoll to show how art can influence activism. Patty has been excited to open her collection to the public so that it will hopefully touch and change lives. She reminded us that the hottest levels of Dante’s Inferno are reserved for those who in the time of crisis maintain their neutrality.
The primary artist is Sue Coe, a British political artist and illustrator living in upstate New York, who works primarily in drawing and printmaking. Her poignant and sharp images do not hide from the cruelties that are the lives of millions of animals.
She depicts the “ghosts of his meat following man” as well as slaughter house and circus training torture realities. It is done in the style of Francesco Goya and Expressionistic artists Kathe Kollwitz and those in 1930s Germany who were astutely trying to warn of the horrors of Nazi-ism.
There are other beautiful exhibits such as an orca family, a whale sculptue by famed marine life artist Robert Wyland. There's also a fantastical Noah's Ark sculpture.
Howie Cooke's magnificent oil painting has EX.OD.US as the title. Howie has written to Patty, "The title means that the whales would become EXTINCT if we OVERDOSE them with killing, capture, pollution, entanglement, starvation and acoustic invasion, and it will be US, as in us humans who will be responsible and held accountable for the demise of Cetaceans, their friends and the Ocean." In recent years Howie has served as an active member of Paul Watson's Sea Shepherd crew. Patty bid and won it at a gala for Sea Shepherd in Santa Monica.
There were many, many animal lovers with causes at the opening. Among the few I had the opportunity to talk with were Jennifer Conrad of PAWS Project, Jan Creamer and Tim Phillips of Animal Defenders International, Dr. Armaiti May, host of Animal Issues, internet radio show, John Salley, former NBA player and talk show host, and Kat Kramer, performer in Circus PAWS of the Performing Animal Welfare Society.Fabulous comedienne Debra Watson was also there to celebrate the opening as well as Alexandra Paul and Elaine Hendrix.
Attorney David Simon helped introduce the founders. There was also photographer Diane Lannes, film director Todd Spradlin, artist and curator Alysse Stephanian, pet photographer Michelle Morgan, recording artist Fawn, and Francisco Santos of GreenQuest.tv. There was so much chatting and networking going on there was never less than a loud roar in the rooms!
Animals are hopefully starting to find their voices in the voices of these dedicated advocates and the hopefully thousands who will come to frequent the museum, be enlightened, and join their ranks.
ALL are invited to an exciting free event already planned at the Museum on the evening of Saturday, April 27. There will be a reception for the founders of SOS Wildlife India, Kartick and Geeta, an amazing couple who are visiting from India. They have single-handedly saved all the “dancing bears” from the country and created sanctuaries for them. They have also re-trained the “owners” of the bears into other occupations. They are now heavily involved in rescuing abused elephants and creating sanctuaries for them. Their adventure tales are amazing and sure to excite and inspire adults and children. There will be Indian appetizers and drinks. The wonderful gallery of the Shenker-Stoll collection will still be on exhibit. From 6-10pm. NOT TO BE MISSED!!!
GEORJA UMANO is an actor and animal advocate.
The Animal Advocacy Museum is open on Thursdays and Saturdays from 11am – 4pm. Admission is free.
email: [email protected]
Behind the Throop Universalist Unitarian Church
300 S. Roblas Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91101