An up-and-coming four-legged artist in Virginia has raised $4,000 for the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria. Under the nickname "Ricasso," the precocious 6-year-old Staffordshire terrier sold nearly 20 pieces in his debut collection.
"Ricasso," whose real name is Rico, had been living at the shelter for almost a year before the volunteers discovered his talent. After they noticed how much Rico liked to wag his tail, shelter workers decided to give the terrier paint to dip his tail in before spreading it across a canvas.
“When the creative spirit struck him he would really get going and do three or four pieces at a time,” said Gina Hardter, director of marketing & communications at the rescue league and a self-described "assistant" for Ricasso.
All autumn long, Rico built up his body of work to the point where he can give back to the shelter that's hosted him all this time. His pieces fetched hundreds of dollars each when they were auctioned off at a special event Dec. 6. The rescue had decided to sell the paintings after visitors clamored to own a "Ricasso original," according to a press release.
Ricasso's magnum opus, "Pinny in Technicolor," sold for $600, the highlight of the night. The multicolor portrait displays Ricasso's muse, a blue bowling pin toy named Pinny.
Now Rico may be retiring from the art world while at the pinnacle of his career. Currently, he's splitting time between a foster home and the "Artist's Suite" in the shelter's kennels. But he's also training to get ready for a new permanent home.
"He's learning so much every day, not just how to paint," Hardter said. "He is really enjoying his time here."
Rico is still available for adoption. Hardter said he's looking for a quiet home, ideally without other dogs or young kids, where he might be able to continue his craft. An anonymous donor has allowed the shelter to waive Rico's adoption fees.