Ross Bleckner, renowned artist and faculty member at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, has been named Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Bleckner, well known for his large-scale paintings, joined the faculty at NYU Steinhardt in September 2008 as clinical professor of studio art.
Bleckner’s involvement with UNODC, a global leader in the fights against illegal drugs and international crime, began with an invitation by Antonio Maria Costa, UNODC executive director, and Simone Monasebian, chief of UNODC in New York, to help launch an art-based campaign against human trafficking, specifically child soldiering and the kidnapping of girls in northern Uganda. Bleckner agreed, proposing to travel to Gulu, Uganda to conduct an art workshop for victims of trafficking.
In recent years, Gulu and other areas of northern Uganda have been plagued by rebel groups abducting, recruiting, and conscripting thousands of children, forcing boys to be killers and girls to be sexual slaves. This past January, Bleckner joined UNODC and the International Criminal Court Trust Fund for Victims (TVF) on an official mission to Gulu, to assist in the rehabilitation of former child soldiers and abducted girls through art therapy.
Bleckner conducted a workshop for the Gulu children, encouraging them to confront their past through artistic expression. The mission resulted in the creation of more than 200 paintings that will be exhibited at an UN benefit this May. Proceeds from the benefit and from the sale of the artworks will benefit UNODC and the TVF work with child victims of human trafficking.
“The look of accomplishment and joy in the eyes of the children I worked with in Africa was one of the greatest gifts I’ve received in my years being an artist,” said Bleckner.
To read a recent NYT article on Bleckner, click here.
For a slideshow of images, click here.