'Curious about their curiosity:' Local artist is letting animals experience art

It was 102 degrees the day the chipmunk decided to become a patron of the arts.

You can see him there, perched on a rock, looking intently at a pair of paintings.

Maybe the heat got to his head. Maybe he was bored. Or maybe he was just strolling by and got distracted.

Perhaps he was even inspired by the paintings themselves. One is of Jesus, the other is Saint Francis of Assisi. If the chipmunk is drawn to St. Francis, that would be only natural. The 11th century Italian friar was known for preaching to birds and other animals.

“Fioretti di San Francesco,” a 14th century anthology that captures incidents from Francis’ life, describes the monk stopping some fellow travelers as they wandered the Italian countryside.

“Wait for me here,” Francis said, “while I go and preach to my little sisters the birds.” Francis saw animals as not only open to God’s love, but worthy of it.

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The story of Saint Francis inspired Jim Baken, the artist who not only painted the rocks that so entranced the chipmunk, but — with a trail camera — captured the little creature marveling at

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