Arts & Leisure

Get the picture, help support the artists

FRED LOWER PAINTED this portrait for last year’s Middlebury Studio School Get the Picture fundraiser.

Middlebury Studio School is gearing up for the launch of its third annual spring fundraiser: Get the Picture. Again this year, community members can submit photos of their pets along with a minimum donation of $50 and receive a custom portrait of their pet by one of the 19 volunteer artists contributing this year.

“These are really wonderful works of art that are custom made with care, which would be valued far above that price point in a gallery,” said MSS Executive Director Sarah Briggs. “I would encourage donors to think of their gift not as the purchase price for the work, but as a donation towards the services of Middlebury Studio School as a community arts center.”

MSS has been offering classes and workshops year-round in clay, fine arts and various other crafts since it was founded in 2009. The nonprofit is run by a working board “committed to serving the greatest diversity of students, out of our belief that everyone should have the opportunity for self-expression and lifelong learning.”  

Donations to Get the Picture “are an essential piece of our annual fundraising strategy,” Briggs added, “and are needed to continue our high quality and accessible arts education programming. We thank our community for giving generously.”

So how does it work exactly?

It’s simple.

A PAINTING BY Kathy Clarke

A submission form will be available on the MSS website ( on March 15. Donors interested in having a portrait of their pet should fill out the form and upload up to two images. They’ll then receive a link to make a financial donation (of at least $50). Once MSS receives a submission form, pet image and donation, a volunteer artist will be assigned to the portrait.

“Some artists are practiced or interested in portraying a particular type of animal, and some mediums lend themselves especially well to certain photos we receive,” Briggs explained. “But all of the artists are skilled and excited to see the requests we receive.” 

Ashely Wolff of Leicester, for example, said that she loves “painting animals of all kinds, but for Get the Picture I am indulging my fondness for cats.” Wolff will be painting in watercolors and has participated in the fundraiser since it started in 2020. 

In the first two years of this fundraiser, Get the Picture has yielded about 70 pet portraits and raised over $16,000 for the Middlebury Studio School. 

“That amazing level of giving told us two things: people want to support MSS’s programming, and people love their pets,” Briggs said. “So we decided to do it again this year.”

Briggs added that the funds raised would be used for “general operating costs,” the bulk of which is spent on “the staffing of high-quality instructors.” Donations also make it possible for the studio school to keep its programming costs affordable.

“It is central to our mission as a nonprofit that we have art classes that can be accessed by anybody and everybody in our community who is interested,” Briggs said. “We can only keep our prices low thanks to the generosity of those who are able to give. This fundraiser is a fun way we can show our gratitude to our donors.”

A DRAWING BY Suzanne Peck

Participating in Get the Picture is “a delightful reason to get the paints out,” said Danya Pirie, an oil painter from Castleton who’s volunteering for the second year. “As an active member of the studio, it feels good to support its programs.”

Mary Lower, an oil painter from Middlebury who’s volunteering for a third year, echoed the sentiment: “I love the work MSS does for our community, providing art classes for children and adults from beginners to experienced artists. Also, I like to paint pets.” 

Eileen Gombosi, too! She’s an oil painter from Ripton who’s been volunteering since the beginning as well. “Get the Picture is close to my heart both as an artist and a ‘pet mom,’” she said, adding that she has “a clever cat named Bertha with crystal blue eyes, and a Boxer mix named Snickers who is already learning agility training and a dance routine.”

“Get the Picture is a win-win event,” Gombosi added, “raising money for the Studio School’s amazing work, and also to honor the ‘animal family’ that are such an important part of our lives.”

The submission/donation forms will be available from March 15-April 15. Once the portraits are complete, MSS will hold an event later this spring to display all the works in its downtown studio, where donors can come pick up their pet portraits. Donors can even take it a step further — our love of pets never goes too far — and have the portrait printed on mugs, t-shirts and more through the MSS website. 

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