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Not your typical fundraiser: Jonesborough animal sanctuary raising money with unique works of art

Jonathan Roberts • Updated Jan 26, 2020 at 8:09 PM

When Peggy Canter brought the idea of having pigs make paintings for auction to Tilted Tavern Animal Sanctuary last month, owner Robert Jones wasn’t sure how successful of a fundraiser it would be. 

Three auctions and $770 later, the sanctuary has little to swine about. 

“I knew these paintings would sell like they’re doing because people will pay to help animals,” Canter said. “I knew.”  

Jones said that, initially, he was excited about doing something that’s a bit outside of the box, but that the support they’ve gotten has surprised him.

“I was shocked,” Jones said. “It was shocking when they went (into the hundreds). We’re excited about it — it’s been really nice and there’s really good support, and it’s nice to have a story behind each painting.” 

Before each auction, Jones and his team decide where the money will go to help ahead of time, and oftentimes it’s posted while the auction is taking place, allowing bidders to know exactly where their money is going. Their first auction raised $200 toward feed for the animals, with three other paintings by another pig, Chloe, raising $440 to pay for her spay.

“It’s been really nice to give people something in return (for donating),” Jones said. “It works in a lot of different ways. It’s nice all around for all of us.” 

It’s not always easy to get the animals to paint, however. 

On Thursday, Tilted Tavern invited the Johnson City Press to watch their animals in action, but the star of the day’s show, Bortus, wasn’t eager to paint. After some coaxing, however, Bortus ended up painting a heart-shaped canvas with a pigturesque mix of pink and gold with a touch of blue, which will be auctioned off around Valentine’s Day. Peewee — one of Tilted Tavern’s biggest pigs — also got to paint, putting his touches on a 6-by-6 canvas that will be auctioned off on Instagram in the coming weeks. 

“It makes me feel great,” Canter said of the support they’ve received. “I feel that I’m giving (the sanctuary) back just a little bit of what they’re doing for me and my son.” 

Canter’s son has a communicative disorder, and says animals are one of the best ways to get him to socialize, which is one of the reasons she began volunteering in the first place. 

“It just makes me feel good to give back a little of what they’re doing for me,” she said. 

And while Canter has turned the sanctuary’s pig into Pigcasso’s in short order, they hope to get all of its animals involved, and have toyed with the idea of opening up an online store for smaller works (such as the 6-by-6s) or prints of larger versions. More importantly though, the Tavern is hoping to open its doors to the public in 2021.

“We’re still working toward opening for the public because we want to have a presence where people can get educated here,” Jones said, adding that they’re also hoping to open a visitors center as well. “Mainly, we want to open to the public. We have 82 animals here that are great education ambassadors so if we can use them to teach the public — that’s really our mission.” 

“We can’t save every animal, but we can use our animals to help others.”  

Tilted Tavern hosts auctions on most Sundays on its Facebook and Instagram pages, @TiltedTavernAnimals. For those looking to volunteer or get more information, message them through Facebook, Instagram or by email at [email protected]. They will also be holding volunteer recruitment workshops on Feb. 23 and March 15. For more information on the recruitment workshops, visit https://www.universe.com/events/poo-and-play-volunteer-recruitment-tickets-K59VGN?fbclid=IwAR1peULNNjzoTZ-tf477FxG-oKLm6AJ_nzv47vKx2kufO-wMI8POzkosbGs.   

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