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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The Verve: Roberts and animal companions featured in Sandpoint art show

Diana Roberts with her pets, from left, Murungu, Nyuchi, and Rufaro in Roberts’ living room adorned with her art Sept. 23 in Spokane. (Dan Pelle)
Diana Roberts with her pets, from left, Murungu, Nyuchi, and Rufaro in Roberts’ living room adorned with her art Sept. 23 in Spokane. (Dan Pelle) Buy this photo

Diana Roberts chauffeurs Murungu and Rufaro to their places of employment − they are therapy dogs licensed through Pet Partners, offering companionship to the terminally ill.

She calls them “shelter treasures” because she found them at an animal shelter and they are treasures to her and the people they visit.

Roberts captures the touching moments between the dogs and their patients in watercolors. Roberts has been doing it for 20 years, beginning with a dog named Tessa. Her cat, Nyuchi, has also given solace.

On her website, Roberts writes, “In my paintings I strive to capture the beauty and poignancy of interactions amongst humans, animals, and the land.”

Roberts grew up in Zimbabwe where her mother was a kindergarten teacher and her father worked on a timber plantation. Roberts loved making art, but she focused on science. At 24, she moved to the states for school, eventually earning a doctorate from Washington State University. She is an agronomist, working with farmers through the extension program at WSU. And she paints. Her work includes landscapes and portraits of animals and humans; peaceful studies that are deeply rooted in love for her subjects.

She shows her work sparingly; her paintings are gifts or commissions for the most part but, through Oct. 9, some of her work hangs at the Pend Oreille Arts Council Gallery in Sandpoint as well as at the Panhandle Animal Shelter in a group show called “Compassion for Animals.”

Dozens of artists, working in many mediums, are exhibiting in the show, including students, an inmate from the prison in Walla Walla, and Kit Jagoda, a Spokane Public Schools art teacher and animal rescuer at River’s Wish Animal Sanctuary.

Jagoda’s pieces in the show include “Cry,” doves represented in a mix of acrylics, pastel and charcoal, and “Sanctuary Life 3,” oil on panel with the addition of toy animals.

“Animals and art are interconnected for me. Through art, I listen, express, reach out and reach in,” she said. “Art helps me communicate emotions, ideas and things I don’t have words for. My feelings, ideas and hopes for animals, especially those who suffer in this world, are expressed through visual means. My hope is that it will somehow help these animals by opening hearts, minds and impacting change.”

A portion of the earnings from the show will go to benefit the animals at Panhandle Animal Shelter, Lifetime Friends Animal Sanctuary, and Mercy for Animals.

“The mission behind Compassion for Animals is wonderful,” Roberts said.

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