Faces of STLCC
Streiff's Love of Art and Animals Benefits Stray Rescue
It started almost three years ago, when her son adopted a dog named Tarkio from Stray Rescue of St. Louis. Michelle Streiff started volunteering with the organization when its new Pine Street facility was set to open. Stray Rescue really needed people who could help paint.
“I started helping every day in order to get what was really a big, empty warehouse ready for the opening, when they agreed to take in all the dogs from the Gasconade Pound that had been shut down by the city,” Streiff said. “It was crazy. They were not prepared for all those dogs yet, but (the dogs) would probably have been destroyed. Lots of temporary cages went in, and although it was a bit chaotic, we managed to get all the pound dogs moved in.”
Among those dogs was Norm. Streiff decided to take in the thin and fearful dog to foster him.
“It only took two weeks for my husband and me to fall in love with him,” she said. “He got along with my two old Jack Russell terriers, so we adopted him.”
Deck the Wall
Then a series of events occurred that took her volunteer activity to a different level. About that time, Stray Rescue got a grant from the Petco Foundation for an education room that could be used by the public for training and events. Streiff saw a way to combine two passions: her love for animals and her love for art. She owns her own decorative painting business, Michelle & Friends, and paints wall murals. So she offered to paint a mural in the Education Room.
It was at that time that she also started taking painting classes at St. Louis Community College-Wildwood.
“I started oil painting, so that I could gradually begin doing more fine art and not be on ladders painting ceilings all the time,” laughed Streiff.
And then she attended the Urban Wanderers Art Exhibition and she found an even bigger purpose for her artwork. The exhibition is a joint project between Stray Rescue and the Saint Louis University Museum of Art, and provides Stray Rescue with the opportunity to present the public with facts about the problems of homeless companion animals and highlight the progress the organization has made in recent years to make St. Louis a safer, more compassionate city for both companion animals and people.
Artists paint, photograph and sculpt a Stray Rescue dog or cat that has been abandoned, abused or neglected. Animals also create art, with assistance from staffers and volunteers. The event has set records for opening night attendance three straight years. More than 1,600 people attended this year’s opening March 22.
“Once I saw all the artists’ work I knew I wanted to participate,” Streiff said. “Since I was doing the mural, Stray Rescue was familiar with my work and happy to have me do a painting for the show. I guess it was some kind of synchronicity or divine intervention.”
The exhibition continues through May 5, and the artwork is being auctioned on at blacktie-missouri.com/auctions. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the auction will go directly to Stray Rescue’s efforts to help homeless dogs and cats.
Streiff has been working on a series of grisaille paintings featuring dogs at Stray Rescue for over a year. A grisaille is a painting done in all monotones, usually gray. The series shows the dogs at all stages of the rescue process, from the time they are found to the time they are adopted.
“The grisailles started to become more important with every painting,” she said. “The expressions and emotions of the dogs were so critical. I wanted the under painting to be as detailed as possible until I felt they actually portrayed the dog’s plight on their own.”
Now she is incorporating more color into the paintings, and they have become even more inspirational.
Streiff’s painting of her own dogs napping together is one of the paintings that are available for auction this year.
“It’s exciting,” said Streiff, when asked about being a part of the exhibit. “I’m finally getting my dogs out there!”
And in doing that, she’s helping to raise funds to get more dogs off the streets.