Our path to starting Arts for Animals began many years ago, when Jim and I felt our first connections to wild animals. For me, it was the lions and elephants at Shambala Animal Sanctuary in California. For Jim, it was the aquatic wildlife surrounding him growing up in Louisiana. As the decades passed and those connections strengthened, it became apparent to both of us that preserving wildlife was in the marrow of our bones.
Throughout our lives, both Jim and I studied the science of the animals we loved, worked closely with conservationists and developed lives that are focused on the preservation of endangered wildlife, both on land and in the oceans.
When we each first visited Africa, we discovered the majesty and beauty of Africa's wildlife -- and the sad truth that many creatures may be doomed to extinction. A great philosopher once said, "All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."
Arts for Animals was born out of our personal desire to "do something" -- to make a difference, however small, in the future of African wildlife. We hoped to impact a few hundred children and enlist them in the fight to save the wonderful wildlife in their own backyards. We realized it is only with their help that animals like elephants, rhinos, cheetahs and painted dogs will remain on this Earth.
"Safari" is the Swahili word for "journey." And so this journal chronicles the safari of Arts for Animals from it's inception to it's accomplishments today.
Jim and I began in 2011 as two earthlings who were willing to try to make a difference. Before long, we realized many others shared our concerns and also wanted to personally take action to protect the future of our planet. To encourage and help them make a difference, we created this nonprofit, Arts for Animals Inc. In 2012, we taught the first group of African children and helped them tie their creativity to conservation. It has been a journey filled with encouragement, the enthusiasm of children, and renewed hope for animals facing extinction. As one of our supporters said, "Each spark of creativity ignited adds to the collective light of the world."
We have been fortunate enough to have friends,supporters and wildlife lovers who have joined us on this journey and ,without whom, few of these goals would've been accomplished.And far fewer children would be understanding the value of their wildlife and recognizing what art can bring into their lives.With their help ,we are changing lives and the future of wildlife on our planet-one child at a time.
We hope this "safari" will conclude only when animal poaching ends, with all wildlife prospering in their native habitats, and with the ongoing resurgence of artistic expression in Africa.
The new canopy will be a great place for meetings, classrooms and large art projects
Thanks to the Leiden Foundation,the art center now has an outdoor classroom, project area and spot for kids to meet and draw when the building is closed.
The wildlife Center reaches hundreds of kids every year
Elsmore and Mercy are two local children from the orphanage that we support with scholarships
One of our friends and donors, Markeeta Brown is helping these children finish school. Mercy is a seamstress and Elsmore is going on to college.
While we are teaching the children we are also teaching the teachers
With Anne's background, she is able to mentor the teachers to help the students understand the basics of drawing as well as important conservation messages.
We taught art to several classes of children at the art center and awarded two scholarships
About 100 kids took the pledge to become "Animal Protectors" as well
The wildlife Center "swears in" several hundred kids each year
The smiling faces of one of our classes
Our two scholarship recipients this year and the Zimbabwe teacher
"Blessing" is our first girl recipient and a talented artist. "Pride" is already helping mentor youngsters in drawing
After working at the wildlife Center we moved northwest 4 hours, through Hwange Park
For the past several years we have been working with two schools right on the edge of the largest park in Zimbabwe. It's really critical at these kids understand the value of living with the wildlife in the area.
In between schools ,we sometimes pass large ,Beautiful Lions in the park
"Mayo",The headmaster at Ngamo school with "Methuli",a student he took under his wing.
Methuli says," at this age, I am preparing to make a difference in my community, lovely country, Africa has a whole, and the entire world.I want to be a conservationist who makes a change".
One of the Rangers showed us this lion bone found in the park
This is a a lion leg bone which was found in the Bush with the snare wire still around it. Imagine an animal caught in the middle of nowhere by a wire wrapped around its leg. Not a very humane way to die.
These schools are in the same area where Cecil the lion was killed.
We're teaching these children the value of lions like Cecil so that they can learn how to coexist with these beautiful animals.
The community representative ,Mxolisi Sibanda or " MX" helped us translate
Children in the wilderness maintains community representatives to act as a liaison between their camps in the local villages .M X Has been a huge help to us over the years in working with these children
Working with their eco-rangers, we helped them draw pictures of wildlife on their walls
These children volunteer to be eco-Rangers and meet each week to discuss environmental issues, plan local environmental action and learn about wildlife and the environment.
Many of the eco-rangers also do different crafts to raise money for projects
The eco-Rangers loved their posters and their new wall art
It's always fun to see the artwork the kids produce
The villages these children serve are very primitive, few have electricity availabe very primitive-
One of the challenges of providing computers to these schools is providing electricity for the computers operate. We have found that small solar systems that generate just enough power for two or three computers is the best way to go.
It's always a treat to run into cheetahs or other wildlife between schools
We give children the opportunity to see the entire lifecycle of their wildlife
Getting to see the lifecycle of their wildlife, and its place in nature gives children a better idea of the importance of each species.
When we can, we take local kids on game drives to draw endangered animals
It's always amazing to us that many of these children have never seen their wildlife in nearby parks. Often their only contact with wildlife is when they cause a ruckus in the village and then they are only seen as dangerous pests.
These two lion cubs playing could be wonderful inspiration for a child support
Of course we have to watch for traffic crossing the road in front of us
We finally made it one of our main destinations- the painted dog conservation camp
These sixth-graders come from all over Zimbabwe to learn about wildlife and wildlife conservation
They stay for four days, going on game drives, learning about wildlife, and having fun!
Opportunities like this are very ,very rare in Zimbabwe
Last year we worked with Peter Bliston , the director, to raise money during an art sale in Houston
Cecil the lion was very real to these children, and no one was saddened more by his death
My piece, "OLD SOUL", represents a great opportunity to show the children how art can be used to motivate and inform people.
Our drawing poster, activity poster and animal protector program are perfect for the Bush camp
The art elements we bring to the table are a huge help in getting the kids excited about conservation and art
The kids proudly display their posters
We hope these posters will also be displayed at their homes. The posters are printed on water resistant paper since the walls they will be on are made of mud usually.
Dominic And his class of kids
Dominic is a former school headmaster and one of the most dynamic of the staff at painted dog. He just won an international award for conservation awareness education.
Yes, these kids are jumping for joy- this is an entirely new experience for them
Imagine going to school in a mud hut in a village with no electricity. Suddenly you are brought to a place where you can see animals for the first time, learn to draw, and play with friends.
ARTS FOR ANIMALS is helping to change these kids lives
We never know which kid has the natural talent and drive to become an artist, Park Ranger, or conservationist, but we know that all them will find a new respect for wildlife.
We finished up our trip in a small village nearby at a school called Mbele
What a wonderful school! the buildings were all built by the villagers, and even though it had no electricity, the kids were making the best of everything they had.
The kids at the school were hard-working
They started a new art class and we were invited to teach the first class
This is the first time they saw real art and got a feel for what art was all about
It was so focused and interested in every aspect of drawing wildlife
The art kits we brought them the first exposure they had to a real drawing pencil
We often wonder with lies in store for the future of these children
They were a little nervous about the kazoos at first
After a few minutes the entire school was looking in the windows and wondering what all the music was about
It was hard getting them to put the kazoos down to take this photograph
So the art club became the music club for a while
The kazoos are always a hit
There are few things funnier than hearing the Zimbabwe national anthem played by 20 kids on kazoo
The kids at the school were so industrious
Even though school had been over two hours before, all the kids working hard to landscape the school grounds with broken bricks and plants they had dug up in the woods.
Outside the girls were breaking bricks to use in landscaping
It's always fun to get the kids to act like wildlife. Here they're all lions!
The boys had their own brick pile to break up
After the bricks were broken up, they were hauled over and spread in the yard
The dirt areas between the classroom pathways were being converted into rock gardens
Every child ,no matter how small ,was lending a hand
The teachers here were so dedicated and full of life and fun
Next to the school was a huge garden that the kids each spent time in
Someone help them drill a well so they had the most important component for a garden- water. so the kids cleared the land, broke up the hard clay and mixed in manure, and created a commercial garden. Amazing!
These little girls just wanted a picture with Anne
The smiles of these children repay us tenfold
These kids were so industrious and so happy!
It's quite an awesome feeling to know you are helping to change these children's lives
Sometimes you wonder if you're really making a difference
If we save only one of these elephants and help only one of these children- all our efforts will be worth it!
You can "sniff out" lots more of our adventures on www.aelondonstudio.com (on our "Journal")
We left Africa with a great sense of accomplishment and peace ,looking forward to next year's challenges already!
Each year humpbacks come to the clear waters of Tonga to birth
Herman Melville once wrote," in no living thing are the lines of beauty more exquisitely defined than in the Crescentic borders of their flukes". there really is nothing like swimming with these Leviathans!
Our class in Tonga
These children will go back to their classrooms with a better appreciation of the value their wildlife represents and how important it is to protect their environment.
Four students ,A staff member of the Vava'U environmental protection Association and one volunteer picked for the whale experience.
These children might live their whole lives without understanding the importance of whales to their future as well as their heritage. This whale swim will give them valuable insights into the habitat itself.
Sunrise overlooking the waters of Tonga
There really is nothing like waking up and seeing whales spouting a couple of hundred yards into the ocean from where you stand.
Swimming with whales is an incredibly unique experience
While there,Anne and Jim , after noticing that the dive boats and whale boats were throwing their garbage into the water, made presentations to local operators stressing the importance of," taking only photographs and leaving only bubbles".
Our intrepid Tongan guide
After our discussions, it looks like the operators will start carrying garbage receptacles and bringing back items that used to be thrown in the water. We felt good about that!
The waters of Tonga are famous for their cetaceans and dolphins
Just like African wildlife, the wildlife on Tonga represents A critically important resource and a real future to the children of Tonga.
The art center is decorated with inspirational messages and artworks from artists from all over the United States.
The Zimbabwe government has assigned a permanent art teacher to the center and is using our art center as a model for new Wildlife centers at other Zimbabwean schools.
Working with other other Conservation programs like this one in Hwange,Zimbabwe
We are joining with the Center for Conservation to use the creativity and Conservation activities we developed to reach more children.
Our new "Partner"- The painted Dog conservation center Program near Hwange Park
This center teaches over 800 children each year about wildlife and wildlife conservation during the 4 days camps local children attend.
Helping to Teach Creativity to African kids at the Conservation Center Bush Camp
Drawing endangered species is a fine way to introduce African children to the importance their wildlife plays to their heritage and their future. On our recent visit to the conservation Center, we introduced Bush Camp kids to creativity and conservation
Creating their own wildlife conservation poster
These kids had a great time drawing wild dogs into their individual conservation posters. They will carry these posters back to their village and, hopefully, pass on conservation messages to their family and friends.
Our first class at the conservation Center
While in Victoria Falls, setting up the new art center building we began planning stages on the next phase.
The wildlife art centered next phase will include a large covered concrete area with picnic tables that the children can use for drawing and crafts when the center is not open .
The kids themselves helped us decorate the new arts center with their art.
The day after we decorated and opened the arts Center.
Classes in drawing began immediately. Surrounded by art from several American artists and Anne London, the kids are inspired to think creatively, and act responsibly toward their wildlife.
Our friend,Lori O'Neal help make this center possible.
Lori's Legacy is to change the lives of African children and help save their wildlife from extinction.
Inspirational messages in their own artwork create an atmosphere of creativity at the wildlife Center.
The Arts for Animals Wildlife Center will influence thousands of African children over the next decade
Without action elephants may be extinct by the end of this century
The future of African wildlife is in the hands of these children
Even Lions may be extinct by the end of the century as well
Connecting African children with the world's knowledge
This year we brought donated laptop computers which had been cleaned and prepped for use by African schoolchildren. Using these computers ,we can connect these children with artistic mentors or classrooms in the United States
Encouraging creativity and conservation in Zimbabwe
We focused on 2 schools near Hwange national Park. By helping the children draw animal murals on the walls and developing their drawing skills on paper, they learned about art and the importance of their wildlife to their future.
Drawing awakens the creativity of these children
Once the children's interest is aroused, they become more receptive to the idea that not only must they coexist with the wildlife in the park nearby - they must protect it.
After their art lesson, they take an oath to protect animals.
These 25 children from 2 schools near Hwange Park, make a pledge to protect their wildlife from poachers and harm. Afterward, they receive a written contract that they sign showing how important wildlife and the environment is to their future.
Presenting the 1st computers to local Zimbabwean teachers
Showing off their new " animal protector" wristbands!
Creating an army of thousands of Africans who love,appreciate and protect their wildlife- 25 kids at a time!
Seeing the importance of the "Animal Protectors" firsthand
On the way back to our camp, we passed through Hwange National Park and saw dozens of elephants. Without the local people protecting these magnificent creatures, slowly but surely ,they will disappear
There is nothing more priceless than the experience of watching an elephant family living in peace
It is estimated that almost a dozen elephants are killed each and every day by hunters, poachers, and illegal snares. If we can get hundreds or thousands of local children understanding the importance of these animals- they can be protected.
One of the rural schools we visit in Zambia
Anne meeting with local school represenatives
Anne, and Sue Goatley the "Children in the Wilderness" represenative meet with the principle and the local education minister to discuss teaching wildlife conservation and art.
Again ,the children really respond to art and Anne's messages
Outside the school showing off their wristbands
Environment and wildlife conservation are both stressed at this school. The Zambian schools have more resources than Zimbabwean schools but the Zambian children need motivation to save their wildlife just as much.
This school has the potential to turn out tomorrows leaders
Many of the leders in Africa come from rural schools like this one. If we can teach them the value of wildlife when young ,they can grow up to change the course of African history.