Liz Ball loves elephants. Her other passion is art. A graduate of the Art Institute in Boston, Liz is the owner of Pierce-Ball Gallery in Stamford. As president and creative director of TFI Envision, an award-winning graphic design firm in Norwalk, she represents many Fortune 100 companies. Her company contributes around $250,000 a year in marketing strategy and design work to help local nonprofits engage with potential donors.
On a trip to Botswana in the 1990s, Liz found an opportunity to bring together elephants and art when she visited a trio of elephants that live in Okavango Delta with their caretakers, Doug and Sandy Groves. Wondering if the elephants would like to paint, she fashioned a special paintbrush from a tree branch that they could control with their trunks.
"I was amazed that these elephants not only immediately took to the opportunity to paint, but they had an innate sense of composition," Liz said.
Two of the elephants, Thembi and Jabu, created large 4-by-5-foot paintings using acrylic paint along with some smaller watercolors. While Liz provides the colors, the elephants decide what they want to create. She brought the paintings back to her Stamford gallery and opened an exhibition titled "Elephant Expressions" in 2008. "It was a great show and we sold 10 paintings created by elephants," she said.
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the elephant art goes to the "Living with Elephants Foundation" run by Liz's friends in Botswana who have three elephants and are trying to save as many as possible from poachers (www.livingwithelephants.org). Elephants can live as long as 60 to 70 years, so part of the foundation's mission is to set up a fund called The Thembi Trust that would care for them over their lifetime.
"Poaching elephants for their ivory is among the biggest dangers to elephants," Liz said. The foundation also brings elephants together with the local people of Botswana to educate them on the importance of elephants to their environment and tourism. Tourism is a critical component to the economic health of Botswana.
"Imagine if you lived in New York City all your life and never saw the Statue of Liberty," Liz said. "Many of the natives of Botswana have never experienced an elephant up close. These magnificent creatures' only chance for survival is for the people in Botswana to respect and care for them."
The foundation's mission is to relieve the tension between the elephant and human populations.
The Pierce-Ball Gallery still exhibits paintings by African elephants.
"Collectors love this elephant art. It is fun to have a work of art in your home that has a great story behind it," Liz said.
The gallery is opened by appointment only. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 203-329-1105.