Her concept is The Foal Project, a Saratoga Springs-based nonprofit that provides financial support for a variety of equine-assisted therapies.
Through her artwork, Miller draws from the powerful emotions of a mare and foal's first moment together, paralleling the feelings that surround new life with a similar feeling gained through equine-assisted therapy.
"It's all about the connection," Miller said.
It's a unique concept, but one that appears to be picking up speed.
Miller launched The Foal Project this summer, establishing a donor-advised fund through the Adirondack Trust Company's Community Fund. She set up a mostly local board of directors - local members include Jim Towne and Susan Bartkowski of Ryan & Partners, equine veteran and breeder Jerry Bilinski, Robert Nemer of the Nemer Auto Group, and Mary Ann Macica - and hit the ground running.
Since The Foal Project made its official debut this July, Miller's artwork has boosted programs at the Double H Ranch, the Columbia-Greene Humane Society and at Peaceful Acres.
"People have been making donations, and [the fund] is growing as awareness is increasing," said John Fullerton, Senior Vice President of the Community Fund. "We have seen a lot of interest."
The Foal Project has unique beginnings. Miller, a professional wedding photographer from New Hartford, was invited to photograph a foal's birth at a farm near her home.
It wasn't until after the shoot, when Miller was flipping through her shots, that she truly understood what had occurred.
"There was one moment between the mare and the foal, when they first connected and made eye contact, that made all the hairs on my body stand on end," Miller explained. "It sent such a charge through me."
Miller immediately found a correlation between the birth - specifically that first moment shared between mare and foal - and the connection between humans and horses that can be so therapeutic.
Though she wasn't raised around horses, Miller knew she had captured something more, and that she was meant to do something with it. So she pushed further, and began investigating equine-assisted therapies. She visited centers where children with developmental disabilities and veterans with post traumatic stress disorder learned to trust and relax on horseback, and she drew parallel lines. That trust is similar to how a new foal depends on its mother.
"I saw that connection," Miller said. And the Foal Project was born.
Miller set her heart on using her images to raise money for equine-assisted therapy and began seeking opportunities to capture live foal births. Through a series of connections, the she found Dr. Jerry Bilinski, the equine veterinarian and horse breeder who owns Waldorf Farm in Chatham, and then Jim Towne, managing partner of Ryan & Partners, who connected her to John Fullerton and The Community Fund.
Now that The Foal Project has wings and the support of regional and cross-country donors, Miller looks forward to helping others make the equine-human connection, whether through therapy or the artwork that funds it.
For more information about The Foal Project or to contact artist Lisa Miller, visit www.foalproject.org. For more information about the Adirondack Trust Company's Community Fund, visit http://atccommunityfund.org.