January 2, 2012
by Allan Casey
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Blossom Arrival #4: Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley of Bhutan

We could not contain our excitement here at Blossom HQ when we found in our mailbox a large manilla envelope, a little the worse for wear, bearing the seal of the Royal Government of Bhutan. The Bhutanese Prime Minister, the Honourable Mr. Jigmi Y. Thinley, was our only head of state to receive one of our Blossom paintings. Inside the envelope, we were delighted to find a personal letter from the Prime Minister himself!

While each of the Blossom recipients is remarkable in one way or another, we are especially inspired by the example of Bhutan, a very traditional country that is redefining words like “development” and “progress” for the 21rst century. Bhutan is famous for inventing the concept of Gross Domestic Happiness.

To quote from Prime Minister Thinley’s letter to us:

“Thank you for the kind sentiments expressed about my country and your encouragement for the work being done. Gross National Happiness (GNH) is our development philosophy. Building a strong foundation for democracy along the lines of GNH is foremost on our agenda so that we have an enduring political system with steady socio-economic progress for generations to come.”

The Prime Minister advises us that the painting will be placed in his official conference room.

As usual, the full text of the letter is posted under our own here. Or you can scroll down to see a scan of the original.

 

November 27, 2011
by Allan Casey
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Blossom Arrival #3 – David & Paula Bloomer

Like all technological fields, medicine demands access to timely information. Delivery of good healthcare means staying current with the latest research, keeping up-to-date with evolving best practices. Unfortunately, the best information usually costs a good deal of money — which simply isn’t available in many developing areas.

We here at Blossom were therefore delighted to learn of the Global Library of Women’s Medicine. GLOWM provides healthcare professionals worldwide with free and universal access to a vast, peer-reviewed resource of the best clinical information and guidance.

Upon discovering it, we knew immediately that GLOWM would become one of our recipients, and we have just received word that our painting has arrived at their offices in London, UK.

“We should both like to thank you with true sincerity for your totally unexpected gift,” wrote David and Paula Bloomer, the creators of the GLOWM project. “The fact that you have taken the trouble to write to us out of the blue and from the other side of the world  (well, I guess that Saskatoon is almost that!) is wonderfully encouraging. We have no idea how you found us or why you selected us.” (Read our original letter to GLOWM and the full-text of David & Paula Bloomer’s response.)

The not-for-profit, free medical library was founded by David & Paula Bloomer in memory of their daughter, Abigail, who died of breast cancer at just 31. The Bloomers have a background in medical publishing, and we cannot imagine a more fitting memorial tribute than a library to benefit women’s health

Our latest recipients asked us how we chose them from among the many projects worthy of encouragement. It is a question we’ve gotten from all the recipients so far, so here is our answer….

Choosing was a research adventure that took place over the course of a month. As discussed elsewhere on this site, we looked for recipients we felt were fulfilling — or were in a position to fulfill — the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations. We narrowed our search further by looking for projects that focused on women, food and agriculture. We feel that these categories are really the base of the development pyramid. We also wanted to find unique projects to inspire creative thinking for others. Our UN contact drew our attention to the emerging issues of digital development — the need for less-affluent societies to have fair access to networked data — so that drew our eye too. We looked for self-help projects, businesses and partnerships.

And yes, serendipity and artistic instinct were a part of it. We spent many long walks discussing and debating which enterprises worldwide that we most desired to encourage. The trouble was in having only 19 paintings to give away. We could have used 1,900.

The Global Library of Women’s Medicine impressed us on all these points. To learn more about David and Paula Bloomer’s unique project, visit the GLOWM website. And please consider making use of the donation button you will find there!

November 27, 2011
by Allan Casey
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Friends of Blossom: Elaine and Peter Zakreski

Malawi Nurses

One of the most intricately detailed paintings in The Blossom Project series is destined for Malawi. We are sending it to the nurses of Kamuzu Central Hospital on the outskirts of Lilongwe, Malawi. However, Malawi was one destination country where we chose not to rely on postal services, so we started looking for another delivery option.

The Blossom Project has taught us that the world has gotten smaller — in a good way — and that a rich network of community links tie our own backyard to every corner of the world.

Meet Elaine and Peter Zakreski. Through some friends here in our western Canadian city we heard about this pair of local retirees who first visited southern Africa in 2006 as tourists. They were struck by the beauty and cultural richness of the land and people; and also struck by the barriers that keep too many in Africa from realizing their boundless potential. However, it was a chance meeting on the flight home that would bring the Zakreskis back to Africa and steered their retirement to a different destination.

Five years on, the Zakreskis provide the central fundraising support for a rural healthcare clinic in the Domasi area of Malawi. The clinic serves 3,000 villagers, and is linked to numerous other projects, especially water wells. For the full story on the Zakreskis’ work, you can visit their website, Hope for Malawi. Please consider donating while you are there.

The Zakreski’s travel to Malawi each May, bringing with them everything from medical supplies to soccer balls donated by local retailers. And they’ve agreed to take our painting and deliver it to the nurses.

Nursing in Malawi is a tremendously demanding occupation. The country continues to carry the brunt of the AIDS epidemic in the region, yet healthcare resources are among the most meager anywhere. Nurses who go abroad for training are no doubt tempted not to return to such difficult circumstances. And yet they do return. We’ve seen pictures of the children’s ward there and we can imagine the painting on a certain wall that already has some lovely artwork beautifying an important workplace. Thank-you, nurses of Malawi, and thank-you, Elaine and Peter!

November 20, 2011
by Allan Casey
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Blossom Arrival #2 — Akvo

AKVO makes groovy posters

The team at Akvo is so efficient that they sent us a thank-you note for their painting before it even arrived in The Hague, Netherlands! Here’s a snippet from an email we received from Jo Pratt of Akvo:

“I’m writing to thank you and the Blossom Project so very much for honouring us with a gift of artwork. We were so surprised and delighted to find out about this unanticipated acknowledgement of the value of our work….The artwork and your letter have yet to arrive in the post. Akvo’s Peter van der Linde, who is currently travelling, stumbled across the letter posted on your website on Friday last week.”

We at Blossom were delighted to discover Akvo in our search for recipients. They help connect doers and donors in a 21rst century way. A vital aspect of development is happening on the digital frontier, and this is where Akvo operates. They provide a framework whereby grassroots development projects around the world can be easily posted and updated online. This makes them visible to potential funders and eases the heavy burden of reporting so that people on the ground doing the actual work — digging wells, building clinics, etc. — can get on with the task at hand. It also helps to make development aid more transparent and efficient as people can see how money is spent and what it’s achieving and what works and what doesn’t.”

Akvo is a nonprofit business that does not directly accept donations. But its subscribers certainly do! Visit Akvo to learn more about what they do. Then continue on to explore their many partner projects — and consider donating!!

You can read our original Blossom letter to Akvo, along with their reply, here.

November 19, 2011
by Allan Casey
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A friend of Blossom: Tunde Odunlade, artist

 

Though we sent most of the Blossom Project paintings off by mail, there were a few destinations where we felt it might be best not to rely on postal services that may be less than reliable, or where we were not comfortable sending to a postbox address.

One of these we needed to trouble-shoot was destined to the African Artists Foundation in Lagos, Nigeria. Through a complicated series of kindnesses involving people working in NGOs and art galleries in Ottawa and New York, we were connected to the Tunde Odunlade, artist.

Tunde is an incredibly talented African artist who has exhibited worldwide and who you can read about all over the web. For a short intro and small sampling of his images, check out the Tunde page of the October Gallery in London. Tunde is also a writer, activist, dancer and champion of all things African.

On top of all that, he’s one of the sweetest men you could ever meet. He was just visiting New York when we reached him. After a short conversation on the phone with us, Tunde cheerfully volunteered to personally transport our painting across the Atlantic and deliver it to the African Artist’s Foundation.

Someday, we here at Blossom hope to follow some of our paintings around the world. We hope to meet you some sunny day in Nigeria, Tunde. Thank-you!

November 19, 2011
by Allan Casey
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Blossom Arrival #1

We here at Blossom are delighted to have received word from our very first Blossom Project recipient, Dr. Joeseph Stiglitz, the renowned economist who teaches at Columbia University. Dr. Stiglitz has written extensively to challenge the “free market fundamentalism” that rich countries use to dominate developing ones.

Professor Stiglitz gets a tonne of mail from people around the world thanking him for the good work he does on behalf of people who have no voice in public debate on eradicating poverty. So we appreciate that his whole team took time to decide just what to do with their painting. They proposed — and we here at Blossom enthusiastically agreed — that the painting would be donated to an upcoming auction in New York in support of the organization NEST (www.buildanest.org).

As Team Stiglitz advised us: “This is a five-year-old nonprofit group that helps women aritisans in developing countries move from poverty to economic self-sufficiency by promoting that creation of  viable small businesses. By providing access to the capital necessary to create a thriving business, comprehensive financial and business training, and securing access to western markets, Nest has helped hundreds of women around the world to bring their talents to the global marketplace while empowering them at home.”

Here at Blossom, we readily agreed to the economist professor’s “pay it forward” plan, because dialogue and extending awareness links through art is what we are all about. We are so happy to support NEST!

 

September 25, 2011
by Allan Casey
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Notes from the Mailroom

Most of the nineteen paintings in The Blossom Project have been sent out across the world to find their recipients. Being new to the export game, we had to figure out the best, safest and cheapest method to send these works of art. Here’s how we did it:

First, we had to find suitable packaging. Mailing tubes are not readily available in the 150 cm lengths of these large works. Thanks to a tip from Saskatoon artist Greg Hardy, we found out that new carpet comes on sturdy cardboard tubes. Dave at Beehive Flooring in Saskatoon gave us a nice truckload of such tubes, which are light and strong enough to stand on. We sawed them to length, and presto.

We had to figure a way to the roll artworks such that people in mailrooms don’t damage the paintings in opening them. We printed up fairly extensive packets of enclosures providing all the background on the project and tucked these inside.

We re-checked all the mailing addresses we had found earlier, finding a few small errors, adding postal codes here and there. We printed up some nice mailing labels with the pink blossom logo over-printed. Then it was time to find a shipper.

We had not realized how expensive it is to ship things in modern times. The major couriers offered their speedy guaranteed delivery of our paintings to virtually every corner of the planet — at prices over $300 to many locations. We reverted to surface postal mail. The packages will arrive in weeks, not days, for under $50 apiece.

When you mail one package, you go to the post office and fill out one of those forms where you have to press really hard with a ballpoint pen. For many packages, it is better to learn the tricky-but-workable Canada Post on-line system and do the job from a keyboard. And a credit card.

So, after all these practicalities, all but four paintings are en route. And even as we write this post, we’ve received delivery confirmations on two paintings in the New York area. The four stragglers are destined for countries where we can’t trust the post office not to pilfer at the other end. One painting is going to a war zone. We are looking to send these through friends.

 

 

 

August 7, 2011
by Allan Casey
2 Comments

Now what do we do?

The Blossom Project exhibition was a great success. Sunny Marlene and I were so glad to have such a wonderful gathering of fine people to participate. We have many people to acknowledge for helping out — our thank-you page will be posted here soon! If any of you have pictures to share from the evening, we’d love to post some of those here on the site as well.

Now what? For us, the mail-out begins. For some of the recipients, this will be a straightforward process of wrapping, labelling, stamp-sticking, etc. For other recipients, we will be attempting to send the artworks in the hands of friends in our network so that we know the pieces will arrive safe and sound in areas where postal service may not be reliable. We will keep you posted on the posting!

If you came out to exhibition, or if you didn’t, images of the artworks are now here on the site for review, listed by the name of the recipient who will be getting them soon. Also, the full text of the letters that will be accompanying the paintings are also posted.

Please, please use the Reply function at the bottom of each letter to send your own acknowledgements and encouragements to the recipients, who will find their way to this website eventually.

A word about donations . . . We hope you will be inspired by The Blossom Project to review your personal charity donation plan, and perhaps find some extra funds to allocate to new development-related projects around the world. We hope the curiousity about our recipients, about the Millennium Development Goals will prompt you to do some exploring on the internet, and in so doing you will find many amazing people and organizations worthy of consideration for donation support.

August 4, 2011
by Allan Casey
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The Blossom Project exhibition about to begin

The paintings are up in the gallery. The recipients have been chosen. The cover letters have been written. Everything is just about ready for The Blossom Project to move forward. There will be food, music, talk, and even a drink fountain!

We look forward to gathering with friends and family tomorrow evening, 7:00 p.m., August 5, 2011 at the AKA Gallery, for a one-night-only show of the paintings in The Blossom Project before they are mailed off around the world. Click here for directions to the gallery.

Following the show tomorrow, all the paintings will be posted on this site, along with the letters we have written to recipients, and more. Until then, here is one more sneak preview.

May 25, 2011
by Allan Casey
6 Comments

The Blossom Project is about . . .

The Blossom Project is about bringing out the best in people using the gift of art.

We got the idea on a bus to New York city one sunny May morning. Marlene and I were just concluding a three-month sabbatical, made possible by some grant money that had come our way. We had been able to paint and write full-time, living in a pleasant cottage near the sea on eastern Long Island, and making regular trips to the city for fun and inspiration. It had been an incredibly rich experience, and it was not over yet. We were going into New York to meet our kids and have a last fling before all returning home together. We had so much to be thankful for, and thought of how we would continue the work we had started.

Marlene had done some beautiful work. Two days prior, we had rolled up all of the watercolours she had completed in New York, put them in a large tube and entrusted this to the United States Postal Service for shipment to Canada. We thought how pleasant it would be to receive this package back home, to unroll it all and see the work afresh. It would be like getting a gift.

And that was the seed of The Blossom Project. Instead of the usual approach to sharing art — gallery shows, sales, etc. — what if the work was somehow given away? Wouldn’t it be a delightful experience for someone to receive in the mail a beautiful, original artwork, a bright watercolour done on an large sheet of gorgeous French paper? Could we use that delight somehow, shape it into art?

We talked excitedly and the miles went by. Who would get the paintings? And why? What words of explanation would accompany each one? Can there ever be a true gift, without strings? Or does the giver always want something in return? Something we’d seen during a previous visit to the United Nations hinted at a possibility. We got to Queens and the city skyline appeared and we kept talking. If we learned one thing in New York, it was that there are no creative rules.

Please explore the links at the top of the page to learn more about the Blossom Project and find how you can participate.

Or you can click here to Keep Following the Blossom Story.