Story at a glance
- New York City is one of the epicenters of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States.
- A Brooklyn artist sought to help her struggling community by donating her talents to raise funds for animal nonprofits.
- Within weeks, the artist completed more than a thousand drawings in exchange for voluntary donations.
When Laura Connelly, a freelance artist in Brooklyn, first offered to give away custom illustrations of pets in exchange for donations on March 18, she set her GoFundMe goal at $500. Within days, her Instagram inbox was overwhelmed with messages, and by the end of the month she had raised more than $11,500 for creating 1,252 portraits.
Connelly, who typically charges up to $85 dollars for custom pet portraits, said in an Instagram post she was looking to combat the negativity and uncertainty she saw around her in New York, one of the epicenters of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.
"I wanted to bring something different to the internet world," she said in a post on March 29, at which point she had more than 300 unread messages in her mailbox.
She eventually closed the offer and GoFundMe on March 30, taking another week afterwards to catch up with all the requests. In an email, her husband Patrick Connelly said Laura worked "from sun up to sun down" over 21 days, putting her own business on hold.
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"If I keep taking people I won't be able to catch up and I need to start making a living eventually too," said the artist behind Stellar Villa, a company selling custom pet art.
Donations on the GoFundMe page ranged from $5 to up to $100, and donors expressed thanks for her work, some of which Laura shared on her Instagram account. The money was divided equally between four nonprofits in New York City, Foster Dogs, HeartsandBones, Social Tees, Animal Care Centers of NYC and Mr. Bones and Co.
"My family and I love the artist, Laura, and her rendition of our dog. What a beautiful thing to do for animals that need us just as much as we need them. Laura is an amazing human being that I feel so lucky to have known these past few years. I can’t wait to see more amazing things she will do," wrote Gillian, who donated $50, in a comment on the GoFundMe page.
The artist is now fully booked for all custom pet portraits through the end of May, according to her website and Instagram account. Her husband said in an email that Laura is now working to create ongoing partnerships with local animal shelters to continue raising money.
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