When art aligns with activism

A group of Southern Oregon University students is combining activism with art to raise money for abused, neglected and abandoned horses recovering at Equamore Horse Sanctuary east of Ashland.

The students are part of SOU Senior Instructor Jennifer Longshore's Activist Art class.

"It's an art history class that delves into activism," said student Monica Jurik, an art major. "It's fascinating to see how different people interpret art and use it. A lot of people will bring entire communities together through an art project."

Jurik and her classmates spent hours visiting horses in the pastures of the Equamore Foundation's sanctuary, which Jurik had toured several years ago.

"We wanted to go there and find out what they need and what they think the main issue is," Jurik said.

Equamore Foundation Vice President Ruth Kennedy said the students spent hours walking the fields with the horses, getting to know them and taking photographs.

"From Equamore's point of view, it couldn't be better to have a group of young college students interested in raising awareness," Kennedy said. "I love the whole concept of activist art."

Jurik said she learned that horses are social animals that need the companionship of other horses.

Some owners become overwhelmed by the demands of keeping horses, she said.

"I learned a lot of horses are left on their own because people don't know how to take care of them," Jurik said. "They're hard work and some people don't get that."

After seeing the horses and learning about Equamore, the students organized an art exhibit in the Marion Ady Building and a silent auction fundraiser, set for 6:30 to 9 p.m. Friday at the art building.

Students involved with the Equamore project donated art and jewelry, and also received donated art from another classmate and local artist Dana Feagin, who is known for her colorful, whimsical animal portraits.

A student with graphic art skills designed a poster to publicize the benefit auction.

Jurik said she's been inspired and touched by the people have created and donated for the fundraiser.

"It's funny to think about art helping people," she said. "A lot of people in the art community can get stuffy about things. A lot of people think if your art is for a purpose, then it's not art. But taking this class and working on the project have opened up this whole branch of activism to me that I'd never thought about."

In addition to Friday's fundraising auction and exhibit, the public is invited to a celebration and open house from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Equamore Horse Sanctuary, 4723 Highway 66, in between the Oak Knoll Public Golf Course and Emigrant Lake.

An Equamore Foundation sign marks the sanctuary.

Horses will be in their stalls so that people can meet them, Kennedy said.

For more information about the Equamore Horse Sanctuary and the Equamore Foundation, visit http://www.equamore.org.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.

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