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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).

Ahimsa Award recipients are honored with an original painting celebrating their work, created by artist Jane O’Hara (above from left to right: The Last Pig 2018 for Allison Argo, The Last Picture 2019 for Jo-Anne McArthur, Mejia's Magic 2020 for Cyrus Mejia, and A Better World 2021 for Dr. Aysha Akhtar) and are highlighted in a festival program from Compassion Arts.


Compassion Arts Festival was started in 2015 as an all-volunteer collective project. Created by animal advocate and music artist Ellie Sarty, the idea developed and came to life through the volunteer participation of dedicated artists, educators, animal advocates and others working to use creativity to expand compassion and raise awareness about our relationship with animals.

In its first 5 years, Compassion Arts Festival programs were live events that were held in spaces such as Worcester Art Museum (MA), Symphony Space (NYC), Amazing Things Arts Center (MA), and PACE University (NY) , to name a few. But due to the pandemic and other challenges that made it increasingly difficult for us to present live programs, the Festival was changed to an online format in 2020 and officially became a permanent virtual Festival in 2021.

Over the years, Compassion Arts Festival has presented numerous programs, sometimes partnering with other organizations such as Culture and Animals Foundation, In Defense of Animals and Unity of Central Mass, or bringing our presentations and programs to events like Boston Veg Fest, New England Veg Fest, sanctuary fundraisers and others. Some of our past programs include art exhibits, film screenings, poetry readings, workshops, theater performance works, concerts, community art projects, speakers, sanctuary tours, and more. If you would like more information about a specific festival or a past event, please email [email protected].

Presenters and Past Programs 2015-2021:

  • After Animals: podcast creators and presenters for Eighth Trust Symposium program for CAF 2021
  • Aysha Akhtar: speaker for Eighth Trust Symposium and 2021 Artists for Ahimsa Award honoree (CAF 2021)
  • Marla Andrews: animal advocate, humane educator, speaker for Compassion Fatigue Roundtable (CAF 2020), and the host/moderator, and co-presenter for Lift Up All Who Care program for CAF 2021
  • A Prayer for Compassion: documentary film screening at Unity of Central Mass (CAF 2019)
  • Allison Argo: filmmakerand presenter of The Last Pig film screening at Kendall Square Cinema (CAF 2018) and 2018 Artists for Ahimsa Award honoree, presenter for Learning From Animals roundtable (CAF2021)
  • Kevin Archer: Peace Meal Supper Club (CAF 2015)
  • Joy Askew: recording artist, composer, performing singer-songwriter, music performer and presenter for programs for CAF 2017, 2020, 2021
  • Gene Baur: Farm Sanctuary founder, animal advocate, author of Forks Over Knives and other books, speaking presentation for CAF 2015
  • Marc Bekoff: author, animal advocate, speaker for Learning From Animals roundtable program (CAF 2021)
  • Aryenish Birdie: animal advocate and speaker for "Act With Hope" roundtable program CAF 2021
  • Sarah Bowen: author, animal chaplain and speaker for "Learning From Animals" roundtable program (CAF 2021)
  • Risa Branch: singer-songwriter and jazz vocalist, music presentation and interview for Kindred Soul (CAF 2021)
  • Culture and Animals Foundation: festival co-partner for Compassion Arts & Culture and Animals Festival at Symphony Space NYC (CAF 2017)
  • Danny Hamilton: musician, performing singer-songwriter, music video presenter (CAF 2020) and presenter for Kindred Soul (CAF 2021)
  • Michael Harren: composer, musician, multi-media performing artist, presenter for programs CAF 2017 at Symphony Space, The Animal Show one-person play for CAF2018, music video Their Eyes CAF2020, and host, director and coordinator of Kindred Soul for CAF2021
  • Kit Jagoda: River's Wish Sanctuary co-founder and presenter for "Lift Up All Who Care" program (CAF 2021)
  • Kedi: documentary film screening (CAF 2017)
  • Joanne Kong: animal advocate, educator, concert pianist, speaker and performance presentations in music and advocacy(CAF 2020 & 2021)
  • Kim Korona: founder of HEART and speaker for Teaching Our Children roundtable program (CAF 2021)
  • Norah Kramer (link ): founder of Youth Empowered Action and speaker for Teaching Our Children roundtable (CAF 2021)
  • April Lang: animal advocate, therapist for compassion fatigue and grief related work for the human-animal bond, author of Animal Persuasion, workshop facilitator for CAF 2019 and roundtable speaker for CAF2020.
  • Isa Leshko: photographer, author of Allowed to Grow Old (CAF 2019), artist in The Fifth Trust group exhibit (CAF2021) and roundtable speaker for Lift Up All Who Care program (CAF 2021)
  • Lisa Levinson: animal advocate, In Defense of Animals sustainable activism campaign director, Vegan Spirituality creator, co-founder of Public Eye: Artists for Animals (CAF 2019, 2020), host of Learning From Animals program and speaker for Lift Up All Who Care (CAF 2021)
  • Jasmine Leyva: filmmaker, The Invisible Vegan film screening and speaking presentation (CAF 2020)
  • Dawn Casteel-Lorick: The Listening Project, One Kindred Paw (2020), presenter in Preserving Nature's Song (2021)
  • Jo-Anne McArthur: photojournalist, author, founder of We Animals Media and Unbound Project, speaker on "Captive" CAF2017, Artists for Ahimsa Award honoree (2019), presenter with Women Artists for Animals panel ( CAF2020), speaker for "Act With Hope" roundtable program (CAF 2021)
  • Cyrus Mejia: visual artist, animal advocate, co-founder of Best Friends Animal Society and Ravens Heart Gallery, 2020 Artists for Ahimsa Award honoree, presenter for "Lift Up All Who Care" program (CAF 2021)
  • Cheryl Miller: creator of Forty-nine Million Turkeys Community Art Project (CAF 2019), presenter for Vegans of New England program (CAF 2021)
  • Carolyn Merino-Mullin: founder of the Animal Museum, gallery & exhibit curator, panel moderator for Women Artists for Animals panel discussion (CAF 2020) and host for The Fifth Trust virtual art opening CAF2021
  • Stewart Mitchell: author, spoken word artist, vegan activist presenter in "Kindred Soul" for CAF 2021
  • Victoria Moran: founder of Main Street Vegan radio, speaker presentation on a A Prayer for Compassion film screening for CAF 2019
  • Marlene Narrow: Vegan Nation radio program, World Peace Diet presenter (CAF 2016, 2019, 2020), program host for "Preserving Nature's Song" and presenter for Vegans of New England CAF 2021
  • Jane O’Hara: visual artist, Beasts of Burden curator, Forget Me Not virtual exhibit, co-curator The Fifth Trust exhibit, CAF presenter (2015 thru 2021)
  • Gretchen Primack: poet, educator, author of KIND, poetry reading presentations for CAF 2017, 2020 & 2021, and presenter of Writing Like An Animal persona poetry workshop (CAF 2021)
  • Janell O’Rourke: visual artist, ArtAnimalAffect co-founder, CAF Women Artists for Animals (CAF 2020), co-curator of The Fifth Trust exhibit 2021
  • Lewis Randa: Peace Abbey Foundation (CAF 2016)
  • Sailesh Rao: Climate Healers (CAF 2020)
  • Martin Rowe: founder of Lantern Publishing & Media, author, creator of Vegan America, Culture and Animals Foundation Executive Director 2022, CAF presenter 2015, 2017 & 2021
  • Sentient Media: digital platform for raising awareness about animal advocacy issues and presenter for "Eighth Trust Symposium" program (CAF 2021)
  • Shaleen Shah: founder Luvin' Arms Sanctuary and speaker for "Learning From Animals" roundtable program (CAF 2021)
  • Kathy Stevens: Catskill Animal Sanctuary founder / director, author, podcast host and virtual sanctuary tour presenter & speaker for CAF 2020
  • Mihoko Suzuki: musician, composer of song-cycle “And the Hummingbird Says” (CAF 2017)
  • Tamerlaine Sanctuary and Preserve: sanctuary tour and presentation for "Kindred Soul" program CAF 2021
  • The Fifth Trust exhibit: group exhibit for CAF 2021, curated by Jane O'Hara and Janell O'Rourke with artists Linda Brandt, Lee Deigaard, Patricia Denys, Alise Eastman, Kathryn Eddy, Karen Fiorito, Erica Gajewski, Suzy Gonzalez, Isa Leshko, Jane O'Hara, Colleen Plumb, Linnea Rhyske, Janell O'Rourke, LA Watson, Gretchen Woodman
  • The Invisible Vegan: documentary film screening (CAF2020)
  • The Last Pig: documentary film screening and presentation by filmmaker Allison Argo at Kendall Square Cinema (CAF 2018)
  • TMI Project: True Storytelling writing workshops about the human-animal bond (CAF 2019 at Woodstock Sanctuary, and CAF 2020 online)
  • True Story Playback Theater: interactive improvisational true story theater on 'Animals Encounters" at Amazing Things Arts Center (CAF 2019)
  • Kris Tucker: humane educator and speaker for "Teaching Our Children" roundtable program ( CAF 2021)
  • Will Tuttle: speaker, educator, workshop facilitator, author of World Peace Diet (CAF 2016, 2020)
  • Vegans of New England: "Gratitude in Action" program for CAF 2021, a virtual Thanks-Living hosted by Eunice Wong with video presentations from JP Sanctuary, Peace Ridge Sanctuary, Vine Sanctuary, fine arts animal photographer Britte Bosse, sound artist Stephanie Rosally-Kaplan, 46 Million Turkeys Art Project, Vegan Nation host Marlene Narrow, chef Rickie Biggz, vegan cookbook author Tricia Dillon, dance project Backyard Terrestrials, New England Veg Fest co-founder Manda Rose, and documentarian Alfee West.
  • Nina Vecchi: musician, singer-songwriter, healing arts / Sound Alchemy, performed for concert for Compassion Chorus (CAF 2019)
  • Donald Vincent (aka Mr. Hip): poet and writer, spoken word artist, Vegan Paradise album creator and performer, That’s So Vegan creator, Compassion Arts presenter, host, and collaborator CAF 2016 thru 2021
  • Zoe Weil: founder of Institute for Humane Education, author, TED speaker and host/presenter for" Teaching Our Children" humane education roundtable program (CAF 2021)
  • Alfee West: documentarian, performing artist and singer with Rattle & the Thunder, Compassion Chorus, Presenter for CAF 2017 thru 2021
  • Mandy-Suzanne Wong: writer and presenter for program "Absence of Unnecessary Hurting" (CAF 2021)
  • John Yunker: writer and founder of Ashland Creek Press and author of “Sanctuary” presented by Our Hen House for CAF 2017, speaker and presenter of "Preserving Nature's Song" for CAF 2021

Other contributing performers, artists, and advocates over the years have included (in alphabetical order):

ArtAnimalAffect artists Kathryn Eddy, Janell O’Rourke, LA Watson (2020); author and educator Carol Adams (video 2020) animal advocate and scholar; Aytan Alkan (2017); Bella and the Eclipse theater performance lab (2019); artist Ariel Bordeaux (2016); Earthlands (2015); Kala Farnham (2018-2020); artist Linda G Fisher; artist Luiso Garcia (2020); artist Suzy Gonzalez (video 2020); Infinite Trees Project (2015); educator Dale Jamieson (2017); EC Lorrick (music 2020); filmmaker Marissa Wolfson Miller (2017); Our Hen House (radio play) (2017); Rattle and The Thunder music performance lab with Sunta Africa; the Balboans band; Lucas Bickford; Cynthia Sarty; Ellie Sarty (2017, 2018, 2019); educator Radhika Subramaniam (2017); Cheri Vandersluis (2016)