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LUV4ll Interview with Leigh Sanders: Founder of Art of Compassion Project
By Leigh Sanders

Leigh Sanders is the Founder of the Art of Compassion Project, an international art collective of vegan artists from all over the globe and across every continent. The art collective raises funds through various art projects and donates 100 per cent of profits to a variety of vegan non-profit organizations, at least one large and one small organization every year. 

When she started the Art of Compassion Project, Leigh had a mission. “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. 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 love shown for the 2019 book she co-created with Jessica Goodall, Art of Compassion: Creative Activism for Animals, demonstrates that her mission has succeeded in doing just that.

“The Art of Compassion” is the first book of its kind–a collection of heartwarming and awakening vegan art from eighty artists around the globe. Through the power of visual and literary art, this book aims to expose the plight of animals, to empower animal rights activists, and to inspire the compassionate lifestyle of veganism. Complete with an eclectic body of 180 artworks—as well as twenty in-depth artist interviews and seven touching poems–The Art of Compassion is the perfect coffee table book for every conscious home”.

Racine: Hello Leigh Sanders. Your book is beautiful. Though visually impaired, I can still enjoy the beauty on the page. I love the term, ‘Creative Activism.’ You have written that, “Opportunities for me to actively go out there and protest are limited, due to my disability, so I came up with a way to combine my love of animals, with my love of art, that I could do from the desk.” 

Some individuals with disabilities talk about feeling marginalized and desire a sense of inclusivity. Could you take us through your inspirational journey from your own physical disability, to a life mission that has now inspired so many individuals and touched the lives of both human and nonhuman animals alike.  

Leigh Sanders: Thank you Racine, we are very proud of our book!  I grew up with severe scoliosis, having had to wear a back brace 23/7 throughout my teenage years and then go through painful corrective surgery (which didn’t really work anyway).  This was all complicated by the hereditary degenerative disease called Charcot Marie Tooth. CMT affects the peripheral nerves, resulting in gradual muscle wastage in the extremities.  In my younger years I was able to do a lot more, in fact, I spent many years waitressing!  But as I got older the disease progressed, coupled with back issues to the stage that I am now only able to leave the house in a wheelchair.

I have always maintained we can all make a difference – even if it is just to touch one life in a positive way.  So when I became vegan in 2014 through Veganuary I wanted to give back and help spread the message.  The idea for an art book came to me – something I could do from home – even though I had no clue how I’d get it done!  I had faith the right people would cross my path – and so they did!  So much so, that the book was put on hold, and the original concept grew into what is now ‘The Art of Compassion Project’ .

Racine: Were you surprised to discover the many artists around the world who are vegan, who care deeply about the plight of other animals, and therefore responded with open arms to your unique project? 

Has the amazing experience of participating in The Art of Compassion Project, which comes with the opportunity to creatively express what’s in their hearts, changed their lives in some way? 

Leigh Sanders: I was thrilled to have such a positive response, people were interested in the art book but more importantly in joining our artist collective. I honestly hadn’t expected the enthusiasm we’ve had for The Art of Compassion Project.  I receive so many lovely emails from artists saying how the AoCP has given them direction and encouraged them to create art that highlights animal rights.  Some have an outlet for the first time ever and it is quite humbling to see the passion our artists have.

Racine: Your very first project was a calendar in aid of Hillside Animal Sanctuary in the UK, where you raised 319.29 pounds. The proceeds from your book, “Art of Compassion: Creative Activism for Animals”, support Veganuary, an organization dedicated to changing public attitudes and making the transition to veganism as easy and enjoyable as possible, which previously helped you as well. 

I was impressed with the number and variety of causes you have donated to through the years, some terribly neglected ones such as Fish Feel, the first organization devoted to promoting the recognition of fish as sentient beings deserving of respect and compassion. Some of these activist organizations were unknown to me. How are you able to discover, and then decide on, the cause you will donate to at a particular time? 

Leigh Sanders: Well, generally I reach out to our artist members for ideas on who they’d like to support.  I feel it’s essential the artists are involved as much as possible.

Racine: Do you have any special projects coming up in the future?  

Leigh Sanders: Our 2021 calendar in aid of ‘Almas Veganas’ (an animal sanctuary in Spain) will be going on sale towards the end of November.  Other than that, it’s hard to say at the moment, as nobody really knows when we’ll be able to participate in live events again.  Either way….we will post all the info on our website and social media.

Racine: Do you have anything else that you would like to add?  

Leigh Sanders: Thank you Racine!  I’d like to just give a shout-out to the lovely Helen Barker, my right-hand in the UK, without whom the AoCP wouldn’t be what it is today and of course – to every single one of our incredible artists for their generosity, talent and kindness!

Racine: Thank you so much, Leigh!

Art Samples from Art of Compassion: Creative Activism for Animals.

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