When Kate Russell graduated from Redwood Valley High School in 2012, she left with a scholarship from the Redwood Area Orrin S. Estebo Dollars for Scholars Chapter. That scholarship helped her as she pursued her degree in art and education, and today she is teaching art to middle-school students in the Redwood Area School District.

Having benefitted from that gift, Russell has felt the need to give back in some way. 

“In the past I have thought about donating a piece, but I just did not know what I should make,” said Russell.

Then an idea came to her.

While she was in college she had a professor who introduced her to the art of painting animal portraits.

“I started to paint dogs in college,” said Russell, adding the subject of her painting was her own dog.

With a focus of her senior show on those dog paintings, as well as plenty of other paintings she has done since, Russell has plenty of pet portraits. Yet, she didn’t really think anyone else would want a portrait of her dog.

However she thought, maybe someone would want a portrait painted of their pet. So, she talked with Tami Riley, Redwood Area Education Foundation executive director, about her idea.

She would offer her services as a painter of pets to the highest bidder. The winning bidder will submit a picture of their pet, and from that photo Russell will create a 16”X20” portrait painting.

While her primary painting muse has been dogs and cats, Russell said she has painted a few other animals over the years, such as a rooster and peacock for her mom.

Pet paintings have been gifts for family and friends, said Russell, but she has never done any commission work in this area. Russell said she has a makeshift studio in her garage, adding, even though she teaches art all day, she still enjoys the chance to be artistic in her non-working hours.

“In school art was always fun for me,” said Russell, adding it has become her passion.

In fact, Russell has taught community education painting classes for adults and youth.

Russell said she is willing to paint any pet as her donation for the Dollars for Scholars art auction, she is hoping for something unique.

“This is my chance to give back to an organization that helped me,” said Russell.

Russell said she has seen the artwork from previous Dollars for Scholars auctions, adding she appreciated the works of others. Yet, she wanted to offer something unique.

“People love their pets,” Russell said.

Those who would like to bid on having Russell paint a portrait of their favorite animal may do so by visiting the Kerkhoff Auction and Real Estate Web site at kerkhoffauction.com. Bidding is under way for that and the rest of the items that have been donated, with the bidding set to end this coming Friday (March 29).

That night from 5-8 p.m. an event is being held at the Redwood Falls Golf Club to celebrate Dollars for Scholars and the art auction. The bidding ends that night at 8 p.m.

The artwork up for bid is currently on display at the Redwood Falls Public Library.

The public is encouraged to attend the event Friday night and to place their bids for the donated artwork, as the funds raised are given to graduating seniors from RVHS who then can pursue their passions, too.