Since Gwendolyn Huneck took her life early this month, people keep asking how they can help at Dog Mountain, says creative director Amanda McDermott. She and recently appointed general manager Jill Brown are two of the three full-time employees left to carry on at the Stephen Huneck Gallery in St. Johnsbury — that is, along with the long-distance consultation of Gwen's brother, Jon Ide, in Wisconsin. Stephen committed suicide in January 2010.
The double tragedy is not only devastating to friends and family; it puts the entire enterprise at Dog Mountain — the gallery filled with Stephen's canine-centric artwork and books, and the beloved Dog Chapel he constructed nearby — in jeopardy.
But, according to a statement on the gallery's website and e-newsletters, the staff and Ide are "absolutely determined to make it through this period and set things on a course to make Dog Mountain Stable and sustainable in a way that would make Stephen and Gwen very, very proud."
McDermott confirms that the very small staff is exploring ways to keep the place going, including "looking into" becoming a nonprofit, which would allow them to seek donations and grants. But it isn't there yet, and so instead they've come up with another way to solicit help: a Labor of Love work party.
The weekend-long event begins Friday afternoon, July 12, and concludes Sunday afternoon, July 14. McDermott says there are a number of needed maintenance-type chores for people who want to "roll up their sleeves" and help Dog Mountain, such as painting, fence repair, landscaping and cleaning. Visitors can also rent a campsite for the weekend, but need to reserve one in advance. There's a volunteer sign-up page here.
"We're trying to bring Dog Mountain back to its original glory," McDermott says.
In terms of the business of Stephen Huneck's art, clearly, one-of-a-kind pieces are just that, and when they're gone, they're gone. Some of his limited-edition prints are still available. But McDermott is also creating new artwork and books. She and Gwen continued to write books in the "Sally" series — Sally being an adventurous black Lab — after Stephen's passing, and had recently interested New York publisher Abrams in a new set of books.
"I use Stephen's images and cut and paste with PhotoShop," McDermott explains. "I've been here for nine years, so I'm pretty familiar with the art."
Even Sally lives on — though, like her owners, the original black Lab has passed. But McDermott inherited Gwen's puppy, also named Sally. "It helps to have a black Lab running around here," she notes.