How Art Can Help Happy Hearts

By Dino Rinaldi

Years ago, my friends and I were out having a drink when we started to discuss the question of how each of us made the world a better place. The conversation made its way around the circle and finally came to me, the advertising rep, and I said, “I don’t do anything to make the world a better place.”

“You create art,” my friend quickly countered. “You are making the world a better place. And what about the violin?” He was right. I was in the middle of painting a still life of a violin for a music school benefit. I felt a twinge of pride and accomplishment. Could I actually help people through my art?

For a month, I was immersed in the creation of the violin painting – it would be my masterpiece. A small space in the rear of a studio was generously provided to me by my friend and fellow artist, Peter Tunney. Daily, we would admire the painting and note the time I had spent crafting it. When finished, I was proud. It was clearly the best piece of art I had ever created. Peter even said, “It’s your masterpiece. You can’t donate the best piece you’ve ever done to charity. Give them a thousand dollars and hold onto it. My friend has a wonderful charity you can help her with if you would like.”

We met with Peter’s friend, Petra Nemcova, for dinner to discuss her charity, The Happy Hearts Fund. The Happy Hearts Fund was started after Petra, a young model at the time, was caught in the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami while on vacation in Thailand with her fiancé. Badly injured, she survived by clinging to a palm tree for hours with her body crushed and with unthinkable devastation surrounding her. A quarter of a million people were killed in the tsunami, including Petra’s fiancé.

Petra started The Happy Hearts Fund because she wanted to help the children of the tsunami ravaged areas. She started by rebuilding a school on the site where she had clung to life back in 2004. By the time that I was sitting with her at dinner, The Happy Hearts Fund had built over two dozen schools and was now helping thousands of children around the world. I was hooked.

Hearing that 15K could build a school in Thailand gave me an idea – I wanted to have an art show (my first) and donate half the proceeds toward building a school. Three months later, I had thirty new pieces of art on the walls for the event. When the night ended, we’d raised over 16K and almost every piece had sold except for one particular artwork; ironically, it was the still life of the violin.

I have since donated art to the Lucky Orphan Horse Rescue, the preservation fund of The Stony Brook Carriage House Museum, The Sunflower Children, and many other charities. And now, working with Petra’s Happy Hearts Fund is one of the most fulfilling things in my life. Artists can change the world one drawing at a time.