About Compassion Arts Festival

Farm Sanctuary

Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur: Farm Sanctuary, We Animals

Compassion Arts Festival is an all-volunteer arts and education program of Compassion Arts, an independent project for animal advocacy through the arts. The Festival was created in 2015 initially as a Harvest Festival of the Heart for exploring our connection with all life. In the years that followed, it developed into a platform for sharing ways that creativity can be an instrument for raising awareness about our relationship with animals, and for inspiring compassion for other species and the natural world.

The Festival has been ongoing for the past seven years, presenting a variety of programs (free) every year, each fall over several days, with different presenters sharing their work in reflections on a general theme. In 2020 during the pandemic, we transitioned from ‘live events’ to a virtual format and decided to keep the online format in 2021 to only do virtual festivals moving forward, in order to reach a larger group of people.

There will be no Compassion Arts Festival this year, as we make changes to the Festival and develop new programs. However, in place of a 2022 Festival, Compassion Arts will host a special virtual event on November 12th to present an overview of some of the future festival projects that are being developed. You can read more about what we are working on below in the sections WHAT WE DO, WHERE WE’VE BEEN, and WHERE WE’RE GOING.


Janell O’Rourke, Crossing Over

New Order

Jane O’Hara, A New Order

What We Do

Over the years, the Festival has sought to represent different areas of creativity by sharing examples of people’s work and a wide range of approaches to advocacy for deepening respect and empathy for animals. A good example of our programs and Festival mission can be seen in last year’s exhibit The Fifth Trust, curated by Jane O’Hara and Janell O’Rourke, featuring the work of fifteen women artists for animals, for our 2021 Compassion Arts Festival on The Ten Trusts. To learn more about the Festival and other programs, visit our ARCHIVES, which lists all past presenters.

Where We’ve Been

Up to now, the festival has been the main event of Compassion Arts every year and has functioned as a small self-sustaining project. We are not a non-profit (yet), so we don’t accept any donations or outside funding. Our programs have been free, except when occasionally partnered with other organizations to bring presentations to their events, as a service to benefit their work, which we do for free. Our Festival’s continued development and growth has been made possible by the generous volunteer participation of dedicated animal advocates, educators and creative artists, sharing their vision and gifting their work in programs and presentations with us for advancing the Compassion Arts mission.

Where We’re Going

Moving forward, the Festival will be making changes to its format, as Compassion Arts transitions from a project to a non-profit organization. In the future, the Festival will be focused solely as a festival of the arts, and will not be a platform for other kinds of presentations. Also, our new Festival programs will feature only original works in the arts by the Compassion Arts’ collective, sometimes highlighted by special guests in the programs.

To allow the time and attention necessary for making these changes, Compassion Arts won’t be hosting a Festival in 2022 & 2023. Instead, we will be offering workshops and opportunities to become part of the Compassion Arts collective, for people who wish to be involved in participating in creating or presenting original works with us. The next Festival programs to be developed will include multi-arts performances, exhibits, film, and other creative works around the theme of ANIMAL STORY about animals’ lives and our relationship with them.

The Compassion Arts Festival will launch anew with these works and resume in the fall 2024.

Artists for Ahimsa Award

The Last Pig


The Last Picture


Mejia's Magic


A Better World


Each year, Compassion Arts Festival selects an artist for its annual ARTISTS FOR AHIMSA AWARD, to honor and highlight an individual, using creativity to inspire compassion for animals, as well as using their artistry to help animals directly and providing a platform for others to work from in animal advocacy. Past honorees include animal advocate and acclaimed Emmy award-winning filmmaker, director, writer and producer Allison Argo (2018); animal advocate, award-winning photojournalist and We Animals Media founder Jo-Anne McArthur (2019); artist, animal advocate, Best Friends Animal Society co-founder and Raven’s Heart Gallery owner Cyrus Mejia (2020); and animal advocate, artist, author and Center for Contemporary Sciences founder Dr. Aysha Akhtar (2021).

The Artists for Ahimsa Award that honorees receive from the Festival is an original painting by Jane O’Hara, created specifically for each individual honoree, about their work . The Ahimsa Award paintings shown here are (from Top Left to Bottom Right): “The Last Pig” (for Allison Argo 2018), “The Last Picture” ( for Jo-Anne McArthur 2019), “Mejia’s Magic” (for Cyrus Mejia 2020), “ A Better World” ( for Dr. Aysha Akhtar 2021).