Going to the dogs

Bob and Karen Madden, the husband-and-wife artists of Rock and A Soft Place studio, not only own a pair of Dobermans but designate proceeds from their work to support local animal causes.

Dogs are never far from thought when visiting the Poughquag home and studio of artists Karen and Bob Madden.

It can range from spotting a Doberman-themed mug or cookie jar to recognizing the breed’s image on a treasured work of custom-made stained glass to a most enthusiastic welcome from the Dutchess County couple’s two Doberman Pinschers, 9-year-old Gina and Abby, the relatively new addition to the household at just under a year old.

“We’ve had Dobermanns for 30-plus years. These are numbers seven or eight, or nine,” Bob says with a smile. “When we got the breed, we just fell in love with them.”

It was a bouncy welcome from the pooches that WAG received during our most recent time with the Maddens, having been there before, first to profile stone artist Bob (October 2018) and then to turn the spotlight on fiber and metal artist Karen (October 2019).

The Madden art story got its start with their previous careers. The married couple met decades ago when working for IBM in East Fishkill. They now look back on successful careers in the disciplines of science and engineering, with both having worked on leading-edge technology and holding U.S. patents for their work.

Today, the couple’s art takes center stage and, as it long has, a segment of their work reflects their love of animals and animal rescue, which are intertwined with all they do.

“We just got in the habit of donating money to animal rescue,” Bob says.

From his earliest days of stone work, Bob created pieces with a charitable angle, most notably his StoneBones, which have raised money for animal-rescue organizations for years. Karen joined the effort with her FiberPaws, compact works that — no surprise — offer a colorful take on an animal paw and also raise funds for animal rescue.

What might seem like small steps have truly taken off. Since forming their studio in 2008, the Maddens have continually created and sold animal-themed artworks with proceeds going to animal rescue.

In recent years, those efforts have been stepped up and taken on a more local focus.

“Last year we decided to start working with a specific organization,” Bob says. “Throwing money in the ‘animal rescue bucket’ didn’t appeal to us.”

To that end, Rock and A Soft Place Studio has made a substantial commitment to the SPCA of Westchester in Briarcliff Manor, a no-kill shelter (Page 94), as it raises funds for a new, state-of-the-art animal care campus that was featured in WAG’s February issue.

As Bob says, “This year we decided to make a substantial donation to the SPCA. It’s public knowledge. We made a $50,000 donation.”

And, he says, that donation was used to create a matching campaign, which a spokesperson for the SPCA confirmed did indeed meet its goal.

In addition, the Maddens hope to expand their charitable work to other regional organizations.

“We’re hoping that everybody does better,” Bob says.

In addition, Karen — who has a long history of working with the family’s Dobermans as therapy dogs, currently taking Gina to Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie (where Gina dances on command) — has begun working closely with the Maddens’ local veterinarians at Hopewell Animal Hospital in Hopewell Junction. She has both exhibited her FiberPaws work and is curating exhibitions for the vets’ new offices, where a portion of art sales will go to animal rescue efforts.

It is, clearly, a family effort for the Maddens, one that shows no signs of slowing down.

As Bob says, “Our lives are wrapped around the dogs. We’re never going to not have dogs.”

Karen and Bob Madden are scheduled participate in the annual spring open-studio tour, Artmostny, in May. For more on the Maddens and their work, visit rockandasoftplace.com.

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