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The Rancho Santa Fe-based nonprofit Art for Barks is debuting its Service Dog Fine Art Contest. Pictured is one of the watercolor artworks from Alley Benbrook. Photo courtesy Ally Benbrook
The Rancho Santa Fe-based nonprofit Art for Barks is debuting its Service Dog Fine Art Contest. Pictured is one of the watercolor artworks from Alley Benbrook. Photo courtesy Ally Benbrook
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RSF nonprofit launches ‘Service Dog Fine Art Contest’

RANCHO SANTA FE — Art for Barks, a nonprofit based in Rancho Santa Fe and founded by Lynn Moon, recently unveiled a contest called, Service Dog Fine Art Contest. An incredibly unique concept, but those who know Moon realize how she persistently reaches for the stars.

“Art for Barks was created to support animal rescue and service dog charities and improve daily pet care. We wanted to focus on several animal subjects that we felt needed larger attention,” she said. “We found that the public was well informed about animal abandonment and highly engaged in rescue animal activities. While people were very supportive of Service Dogs, they lacked understanding of the profound contributions by these silent heroes.”

Last year, Art for Barks championed the Service Dog Hero Contest, which was highly received. Individuals were educated by the remarkable work Service Dogs perform each and every day.

Moon wanted to shine a brighter spotlight.

“To provide further recognition, Art for Barks is now establishing the nations’ first collection of Service Dog Fine Art,” she said, adding how the medium will begin with painting and evolve into other categories.

For Moon, she believes that quality animal fine art has a special way of engaging the public and promoting dialogue.

“Once again we are using a contest to educate about Service Dog Fine Art and consequently attract a larger audience of pet lovers,” Moon said.

The advent of social media has enabled progressive organizations, such as Art for Barks, to have a contest built upon a social media platform. Those who take part in the voting process, Moon said, will learn stories about Service Dogs. Some of these animals were given a second chance at life after being rescued and completed a Service Dog training program.

Among the array of talented artists taking part in the Service Dog Fine Art Contest is Ally Benbrook, a watercolor artist. Like the others, she works hard to show the relationship between dogs and people in her pieces.

Back in the 1990s, Benbrook witnessed her first Service Dog in action. The dog was helping an equestrian with paralysis. Her Service Dog was trained to pick up the lead rope of the horse, bring the horse to her, and pick up grooming brushes if she dropped them.

“I mean the dog was trained to do all kinds of things involving the horse,” she said.

When Benbrook learned about Moon’s contest she thought it was an outstanding idea. It was a way to promote how wonderful these dogs are at the task at hand.

Benbrook also believes this contest will change the way people perceive the art world since most pet art is not particularly viewed as fine art on a regular basis.

“I think this contest is a way of uplifting the artist, the art form, the subject matter, and helps everybody,” she said.

In the same vein, Moon wants people to know that she hopes Art for Barks elevates the popularity of animal art in the United States. According to Moon, due to the lack of art training in schools, many Americans feel intimidated about art.

“We believe that the instinctive attraction of humans for animals is so strong, that animal art is the perfect place to educate about fine art principals,” Moon said. “A quality animal art image entertains, nurtures the soul, and expands the human-animal bond. Brain science has shown us that a cherished animal art picture penetrates deep into the human brain and creates a long-lasting positive experience.”

The Service Dog Fine Artist Contest ends May 30. To peruse the artists entered and to cast a vote visit or