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Local artist helps organize art donations for cleaning oiled birds

Bemidji artist Jane Freeman helped organize nearly 100 other artists to donate paintings to support Wildlife Rehabilitation & Nature Preservation Society, Inc. in cleaning oiled birds following the April 22 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Her painting of a great blue heron and the other artists' works are available on T-shirts and other merchandise at Image Courtesy ofJane Freeman

Twelve species of Minnesota waterfowl winter along the Gulf of Mexico.

These birds, including herons, loons and pelicans, will soon be heading south, possibly into the scene of a disaster. The April 22 blowout of the BP Deepwater Horizon well has left marshes and coastlines fouled and water birds in danger from the spilled oil and chemical dispersants.

"I have a friend who lives down there, and she says it's really scary," said watercolor artist Jane Freeman. "It's disheartening to us up here, so I can imagine how it is there."

The September-October issue of the Department of Natural Resources Minnesota Conservation Volunteer magazine features several articles on the Gulf disaster and how the residual pollution will likely affect Minnesota's migratory birds.

As a resident of Movil Lake, Freeman has a close personal connection with herons, loons and other waterfowl and dreaded the thoughts of what the birds will run into during their winter sojourn.

She said she was talking with her friend Paul Jackson, another watercolor artist and Mississippi resident, wishing they could do something to help mitigate the danger to the birds.

"He said, 'Maybe we can,'" Freeman recalled.

Together, they organized other artists to donate works to support the Wildlife Rehabilitation & Nature Preservation Society, Inc., an accredited nonprofit agency with trained wildlife rescue personnel who clean oiled birds. Nearly 100 artists submitted designs to the Zazzle company, which applied them to T-shirts, mugs, tote bags and other merchandise to sell online at The money Zazzle receives from customers goes directly to WRNPS.

"These are nationally and internationally known artists," Freeman said. "One hundred percent of the money goes to cleaning the birds. Any time they (Zazzlle) cut a check, it goes straight to them from us."

She added that her design of a great blue heron with the words "BE MY VOICE" printed under the image has been a top seller.

"It kind of pulls at the heart," she said. "I think it's about the wording because T-shirts are about messages. It's nice to have a Movil Lake heron because he will be going (to the Gulf of Mexico.)"

In addition, she said, Jackson has arranged with three art galleries in Pensacola, Fla., Galveston, Texas, and Gulf Port, La., to donate their showrooms for auctions of the original art donated by the artists involved in the WRNPS project.

"We're seeing we have a little power here because images strike a chord," Freeman said.

She said her next design will be to save loons.

To see the many designs donated by artists for the cause, including Freeman's, go to