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Q & A With Endangered Species Artists

Lots of environmental causes give gifts when you make a donation. But how many eco totes do you really need? A couple of clever Chicago artists, Jenny Kendler, and Molly Schafer, have devised a new way to help the environment: the Endangered Species Print Project. They create a limited edition art print of a criticially endangered species. You buy it for $50. They give all the money to an organization that protects the species you’ll see on your wall. 

The organizations they’re helping are so tiny (like the populations they serve) that they don’t have the slick fund-raising apparatus that supplies thank you gifts. So Kendler and Schafer effectively stepped in and offered the groups both publicity and donations–plus charming portraits of their animals.
Here’s how they describe it:

The Endangered Species Print Project offers limited-edition art prints of critically endangered species. The number of prints available corresponds with the remaining animal or plant populations. For example, only 45 Amur Leopards remain in the wild, so for this edition, only 45 prints will ever be made. A different organization, whose mission is to the ensure the survival of the species depicted, is chosen for each print. 100% of the sales of ESPP prints are donated to these conservation organizations. You can check out the ESPP site at http://endangeredspeciesprintproject.com, and don’t forget to peep our blog, which is full of amazing endangered species facts and news.

ESPP is an art project and labor of love is run by myself, Jenny Kendler, and my friend and fellow-artist Molly Schafer. Our personal work can be seen at http://jennykendler.com and http://mollyschafer.com

The artists recently did a Q&A with us:
When did you start the project?


ESPP officially launched in the summer of 2009, but Molly and I had been working on the idea and all the start-up details for about a year prior to that.


How did you pick which animals and groups to include?

We choose species for ESPP that are critically endangered, and that have a conservation organization working on their situations, which the print can support. We pick species that we think have an interesting story that we think will capture people’s attention, and concentrate on one’s where peoples’ donations can make a difference. It’s hard to choose sometimes, because there are, sadly, so many species out there under threat. People have been treating the planet pretty recklessly for some time, and thousands of species are at risk or extinction. Molly and I have long lists of other species that will eventually be ESPP prints, as this is a long-term project for us — so keep your eyes peeled for more prints!

Have you seen any of these animals in the wild?

I have not, actually — though I have seen an Amur leopard in captivity, which was sad, since it just paced its cage. I can only imagine how breathtaking it would be to see one in its wild habitat! Because many of the ESPP species are very rare, some of them are rarely seen by anyone. The Seychelles Sheath-tailed Bat, for example, lives on only one island and has a population of only 37 individuals. This means though, that donations through ESPP can have a large impact.

I know you just got started last year, but has the ESPP raised money already for the groups?

Absolutely! We have been thrilled by people’s response to the project, and have raised more than $2000 already for our partnered conservation organizations — something that we are especially proud of, since we are a small two-woman operation.

Which have been the most popular with buyers?

Oddly enough, most of the prints are neck and neck. Just when we think one is going to come out the clear favorite, we get sales of the others. People especially seem to love the Vancouver Island Marmot though, and the Panamanian Golden Frog. One must admit, they are very charming.


What’s been your favorite animal-related adventure around Chicago? (I grew up in Des Plaines, so I’m especially curious if you know of any neat animals to see). What’s been your favorite animal-related travel adventure?

Jenny: Okay, I think this particular animal adventure is the most fun when it’s a bit of a surprise, so I will tell you where to go, but not what you’ll see. Go to the forest preserve nearby the totem pole just above Belmont Harbor at sunset. The summer or fall is the best time of year. If you sit on the trail on the north side, and watch carefully, you’ll get a big surprise!

Another great one is just up the Lake Shore bike trail from Belmont Harbor at the bridge that lets boats into the harbor. If you go during the spring, you can watch hundreds of gorgeous blue and copper Barn Swallows flying back and forth to the
ir nests under the bridge.

Oh, and since I’m spilling the beans about all my favorite animal spots in Chicago, I’ll also tell you that if you go to Lincoln Park near the zoo at night, you’ll very often see 50+ little rabbits in an hour or so. Go in the summer and there are the cutest tiny babies.

Molly: Ahh, those are all good ones. If you are stuck in rush hour traffic on Lake Shore Drive, the swallows also zoom around the stopped cars which can be quite amazing.

I haven’t had many good wild animal encounters in Chicago (I missed the mountain lion that came through 2 years ago). Once Jenny and I went to the Caldwell Woods Forest Preserve right after I had an recovered from an awful knee injury. A big buck with an old knee injury hobbled past us. At that time I was drawing a lot of deer (before everyone else did too) so it was pretty special.

But my favorite Chicago animal experience would have to be when I was sitting in the window of my Logan Square studio and a hawk flew right past, inches from my window, with a dead pigeon flopping in it’s beak. Or, maybe, when I was watching two men was feed squirrels and pigeons in Wicker Park. Suddenly pigeons,squirrels, and men scattered every which way and I had to duck to avoid the pigeons. A small hawk had dive-bombed the lot of them, but he went away with empty talons.

Anything else fun or weird about the project you’d like people to know?

The most fun thing about the project for us is that it lets us indulge ourselves as artists, activists, and animal-nerds all in one project! As for weird, your readers might like to check out the ESPP Blog every Wednesday for our Endangered Strangers posts — where we post pics and amazing facts about little known endangered species. There’s also lots of amazing, and often weird, info about each species we have done a print of on our main website. For example, did you know that the Hispaniola Solenodon, who will be featured in an upcoming ESPP print, has a ball-and-socket joint in its snout?


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