Vegan Life talks to Leigh Sanders, organiser of the Art of Compassion project, which showcases artists who are spreading the vegan message
Over the years, vegan art has blossomed into a rapidly expanding community, with an abundance of artists producing powerful pieces depicting the harsh reality of slaughter and promoting veganism. After becoming an ethical vegan in 2014 and witnessing the growth of this art, Leigh Sanders put together The Art of Compassion project in hope of effectively and successfully promoting the cruelty–free message in addition to helping others transition.
“The project is an international art collective involving work from vegan artists from all over the globe and across every continent.”
The project is an international art collective involving work from vegan artists from all over the globe and across every continent. Leigh spoke to Vegan Life all about her work. “The project initially started off as an idea I had for an art book as a way to raise funds for Veganuary.
Having a physical disability limited me in terms of hands–on activism, so I decided an art book featuring vegan artists would be the perfect solution as I could work from my computer. I spent weeks on the internet searching for vegan artists, emailed them with my idea for the book and had a positive response. Once I set up a Facebook page to discuss the book, one thing led to another. I received many lovely messages from artists and I started thinking, ‘Why not make this into something bigger, something that won’t just end when the book comes out?’ The initial idea just grew and grew into what is now an ongoing project.”
Upon starting ‘Art of Compassion’, Leigh knew exactly what she wanted to achieve. “To begin with, I wanted to build a strong international network of vegan artists that all share the same vision–to use their art to spread the vegan message. I also wanted to effectively use the art as a means of touching people’s hearts and opening their mind to living life the vegan way,” she says. “Sometimes we can be surprised just how much a painting, poem or piece of music can affect us. Art speaks to the soul even when the mind doesn’t quite grasp what’s being said.”
The collective also aims to raise funds through various art projects and donates 100 per cent of profits to a variety of vegan non–profit organisations. “There is no specific method of choosing which organisations we donate to. Veganuary was close to my heart (they helped me switch to veganism), which is why we started with them. This year we are raising funds for Viva! they do brilliant investigative work as well as running a youth programme. We will also be helping to raise funds for a small sanctuary in France called ‘Barefoot Vegan Farm’ that is just starting out. Ideally, the plan would be to donate to at least one large and one small organisation every year,” she says.
When starting the project, Leigh didn’t think the idea would receive as much recognition as it has. “I am thrilled with the response so far and really hope the project will continue to grow,” she says. “Currently we have over 70 ‘member’ artists involved in the project from all across the world; Europe, North America, South America, Asia, Africa and Australia. We are heading towards 5,000 Facebook likes and the number grows daily.”
Since 2004, the growth of social media has been near exponential. Social media allows companies to ultimately reach more customers and it has been advantageous in allowing Leigh to network, promote and interact with such a large audience base. “Social media is an incredible tool–reaching out to as many people as possible through a variety of platforms is the smart thing to do. Considering our artists are based all over the world, social media has played an important part in the running of the project. We can stay in contact with one another and announce upcoming projects and events to our supporters. It’s definitely been a process of trial and error, we’re learning as we go in terms of what works and what doesn’t,” she says.
Eventually, Leigh is hoping to get as many creative people involved with the project as possible from a variety of all art forms. “Not only painters, but also sculptors, musicians, visual artists, writers, graphic designers, photographers, jewellery designers, etc.,” she says. As far as Leigh is concerned, there would be no trouble getting future artists to participate as the member artists already involved are generous with their time and art. There was never any issue with getting them on board as they believed in my vision from the start.”
When working on a project that involves such an expressive form, Leigh always asks the artists to submit their own work. “Depending on the ‘project’ we have going at the time (we are now working on Project seven), the artists are asked to submit artwork specifically for that project–so what they choose to share really is up to them, as long as they meet the project specs,” she says. With such a vast array of incredible artists already involved that feel very passionately about their work being used to further the cause, the overall mix of art is extensive and eclectic. “I believe that there is so much variation in the art we have, there is sure to be something that will appeal to everyone.”
To date, Leigh and the Art of Compassion have produced two vegan calendars, had a crowdfunding campaign which offered perks like art postcards and Giclée art prints and an online auction in aid of Veganuary. “In April, we also partnered with VeggieWorld Paris and exhibited the work (printed on stretched canvas) of 27 of our artists, which was really amazing–all that art together in one place,” she says. When looking to the future, Leigh promises this year there are some fun projects in the pipeline. “At the moment we are working on a pack of ‘dining–out’ cards which will be on sale from mid–June which feature some fabulous artwork. They’re those little cards you can leave at a restaurant to thank them for offering vegan options on the menu. The cards will be available to buy online in a variety of languages (including Spanish, French and German) and the proceeds will go to Viva!
“Our long awaited art book will be coming out towards the end of summer too–featuring the work of nearly 100 vegan artists. You’ll be able to purchase the book on Amazon and proceeds will go to Veganuary–as I mentioned this was the initial idea that got the whole project started, it’s just taken a lot longer than I’d imagined to finish. It’s incredibly exciting that something I have worked so hard on is almost available for people to buy.”
How can people get involved?
We would really appreciate your support! There are a couple of things you could do; follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and tell your friends about us. Join us as a ‘member’–either as an artist or volunteer, there’s more info about that on our website. Finally, support our current projects and keep up to date with events.
Facebook: Art of Compassion Project
Artists featured (top to bottom): Twyla, Brittney West, Marcus Pierno, Michelle Waters