The Story Behind the Exhibition

Following the Where Did All the Animals Go? (WDATAG?) 2019 pilot exhibition, over the last couple of years and throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic, Jane has worked with Born Free Education Team, Laura Gosset, Head of Education and Charlie Baker, Education Officer, the Great North Museum: Hancock Team and WDATAG? UK and international teams, co-ordinating the Where Did All the Animals Go? 2021 exhibition.


Between October 2020 and April 2021 Jane created and delivered virtual and on site workshops to participating children from twenty schools (listed in Acknowledgements section below), including ten North East England and two California schools, and trained Outreach Teams in Guyana, Kenya and Malaysia to deliver her workshops.

California Wildlife virtual workshop, January 2021

Thanks to funding from Born Free, she was able to send all participating UK and international schools packs of colour Biro pens and paper. Despite the many hurdles the COVID-19 pandemic presented, eighteen of the twenty workshops and resulting drawings were completed by the end of April 2021. 

Each participating school was allocated a continent, region or country of species to draw, with international schools drawing species from their country or region. Working with Charlie Baker, they selected approximately 400 vulnerable, endangered and critically endangered species along with a few other species that are near threatened or unclassified. 
 WDATAG? Digital Resource Book

Many species selected to draw were chosen directly from the museum’s collection in the Living Planet Gallery. Species were also selected not only for their drawing appeal but to resonate with visitors to the exhibition, with the aim of helping to create emotional connections with featured species and wildlife in general. Each school received a digital resource book designed by Jane, containing species information as well as images for children to use as inspiration for their drawings.


Image courtesy of Dr Meryl Batchelder: Abigail receiving tutoring from Jane during virtual workshop

Working with schools from across the North East, Jane delivered workshops to talented children from years 2 - 7. She allocated the following continents, countries and regions to these schools:

Y7 Royal Grammar School Newcastle: Asian species
Y2 Jarrow Cross C of E Primary School: African species
Y4 Mortimer Primary School, South Shields: Oceania species
Y3 & 4 St Mary Magdalen RC Primary School, Seaham: North American species
Y5 Our Lady & St Anne's Catholic Primary School, Newcastle: Arctic and Antarctic species
Y5 Bexhill Academy, Sunderland: South American species
Y7 Corbridge Middle School: Madagascan species
Y4 Beech Hill Primary School, Newcastle: Ocean species
Y4 Laurel Avenue Community Primary School, Durham: European species
Newcastle Bridges School, Great North Children's Hospital RVI: UK species

Oceania species by Y4 Mortimer Primary, South Shields © Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums / Colin Davison

The majority of workshops were virtual, with equipment shipped to schools prior to the workshops after which she collected each child's precious drawing personally. Mortimer Primary was the first school to participate in a virtual workshop making drawings of Oceania species.

Jane delivered on site workshops to Laurel Avenue Community Primary, Durham and Beech Hill Primary and RGS, Newcastle. As virtual and onsite workshops were not feasible at Bridges RVI Hospital school due to COVID-19 and the children being confined to their wards with limited internet access, she created a workshop video for pupils to download. The school's art teacher Gillian Wrigglesworth visited each child's bedside and assisted them with their drawings. One of the school's new pupils, Lexi, loves art and was thrilled to have the opportunity to make several beautiful drawings of UK species. (see 2021 Gallery)


California Wildlife workshops, Laguna Beach, February 2020 © Jane Lee McCracken

The opportunity to work with schools in California arose from Jane’s visit to Laguna Beach in February 2020 where her cousin Dr Kirsten Rogers (WDATAG? PR) organised a series of Californian Wildlife workshops for Jane to deliver to Orange County residents. These included a workshop for children of the Boys and Girls Club of Laguna Beach which assisted in the planning of international exhibition workshops.

Invited by the prestigious Laguna Art Museum (LAM) to participate in its annual Art & Nature festival, she also delivered a virtual Californian Wildlife workshop on 8 November 2020 for Orange County families. These drawings can be viewed in Wild Postcard Gallery: California Gallery.  Marinta Skupin, Curator of Education at LAM said of WDATAG? project:

"We loved being part of Jane’s wonderful and powerful project! Jane’s use of art to honour these beautiful animals is nothing short of transformative. Not only are the animals clearly present in the magnificent drawings, but so are the awe and admiration and concern of the artists. I know that Where Did All The Animals Go? will continue to be a force for good."

Drawings of Californian species by children of El Morro and Top of the World Elementary schools © Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums / Colin Davison

In 2020 Kirsten and Danelle Hickman of Ocean Institute formed the California Outreach Team. Californian Wildlife workshops for the exhibition were delivered by Jane, virtually in January 2021. In preparation for the workshops Kirsten and her daughters Nina and Rosie packaged individual sets of Biro packs and paper. Due to COVID-19 restrictions they set up a collection station outside their Laguna Beach home. Shaheen Sheik-Sadhal, PTA President, Top of the World Elementary and Liz Black, Family Engagement Chair, El Morro liaised with parents of participating children who then collected equipment prior to each workshop which they returned with completed drawings. The pen packs will be used for future WDATAG? workshops.

Top left to right: Nina and Rosie packing equipment; Rosie with her Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle drawing; Rosie setting up Collection Station 
Bottom Left to right: Ace with Midnight and Cookie, Lily and her Grey Wolf drawing, Taylor with her exhibited Humpback Whale drawing © Jane Lee McCracken

During the two hour virtual workshops, Jane provided individual tutoring for each child. Ace and Poppy’s Guinea Pigs Midnight and Pumpkin delighted participants with their presence. Lily was a little nervous of drawing but worked exceptionally hard to create her extraordinary drawing of a locally endangered Grey Wolf. Taylor's outstanding drawing of a Humpback Whale was selected for exhibition in OCArts4All.

Kirsten explained to Stu News Laguna Beach how Laguna school community joined in and supported WDATAG?

“By pure luck, I bumped into Shaheen Sheik-Sadhal (then PTA President of TOW) at the end of 2019, who mentioned that she was looking for enrichment classes for the Virtual Academy elementary students. Rolling forward in this story, we were able to provide four virtual workshops, not just for VA students but offered to all LBUSD elementary students in January this year. Parents kindly paid a fee of $20 per child and this covered our costs for the art supplies and a donation to a school for disabled children in Guyana, selected by Mayor Waneka of Linden, Guyana." Read the Stu News article here.


Image courtesy of Dr Kirsten Rogers: Kirsten and pupils of Linden High, Guyana

During her humanitarian mission in 2019 with the US Navy to administer dental treatment to communities in Guyana, Kirsten met with Mayor Waneka Arrindell of Linden. In 2020 following Jane's visit, Kirsten contacted Mayor Waneka to invite her to join WDATAG? Outreach Program and select Guyanan schools to participate in the exhibition.

Top left to right: Mayor Waneka Arrindell; Dr Raquel Thomas; Arianne Harris
Bottom Left to right: Micah Davis Iwokrama Head Ranger; Reshma Persaud; Lezlene Daniels; Leonie Edwards © Jane Lee McCracken

Mayor Waneka subsequently contacted Dr Raquel Thomas, Director of Iwokrama International Rainforest Centre and alongside the Mayor, Dr Thomas and her colleagues, Arianne Harris, Rehana Ragoobeer and Reshma Persaud formed the Guyana Outreach Team.

Arianne Harris with pupils from Kurupukari Primary School, Fairview © Jane Lee McCracken

Raquel, Arianne, Reshma and Iwokrama Rangers including Head Ranger Micah Davis, visited Kurupukari and MacKenzie Primary schools and Hauraruni Girls Orphanage, where Arianne, a biologist, talented artist and WDATAG? first Art Ambassador delivered the Guyana workshops achieving tremendous results. For many children of Kurupukari Primary School, situated in the indigenous village of Fairview, in the Iwokrama forest, this was their first art class. The ensuing drawings of rainforest species are astonishing.

Pupils of Kurupukari Primary, Fairview with their drawings; Arianne Harris delivering the Guyana Wildlife workshops © Jane Lee McCracken

Mayor Waneka Arrindell attended the MacKenzie Primary workshop with her children Mackayla and Micaiah, where she created her first ever Biro drawing, a beautiful portrait of a Guiana Spider Monkey.  It was an incredibly emotional moment for Jane when she was able to drop into the workshop via a WhatsApp video call with Mayor Waneka, and meet some of the pupils and see their drawings. Alongside the children, Raquel, Arianne, Reshma, Staff from Iwokrama and teachers and parents from all participating schools also created stunning drawings during the workshops, some of which are featured in the exhibition. (see 2021 Gallery)

Pupils of MacKenzie Primary, Linden pupils with their drawings © Jane Lee McCracken


Top left to right: Phoebe Odhiang; Ivy Malemba; Wild Postcard Gallery posterBottom: Edward and his Buffalo drawing and pupils of Esiteti Primary School, Amboseli with Losioki Somoire, Conservation Education Officer, African Conservation Centre

Born Free Kenya’s Phoebe Odhiang, Education Programs Leader and colleagues Ivy Malemba, Charles Njoroge and Elizabeth Yiambaine formed the Kenya Outreach Team in Summer 2020.

All WDATAG? Outreach Programs were given the opportunity to participate in Phase One of the project which entailed international teams calling for people of all ages to create drawings of wildlife for WDATAG? Wild Postcard Gallery.  In October 2020 the Kenyan team invited Kenyans to create drawings of local species. The response was overwhelming with Jane receiving hundreds of drawings which can be viewed in the Kenya Gallery alongside the UK, California and Guyana Galleries here.

 Charles delivering workshop to children of NAC Nkiri Primary; Jackson and Clinton creating their Masai Giraffe and Cheetah drawings © Born Free / Jane Lee McCracken

In March 2021 Charles and Elizabeth delivered the Kenyan Wildlife workshops following a virtual training session provided by Jane, Born Free Education and Born Free Kenya for teachers of NAC Nkiri, Iloirero and Enchorro Primary Schools.

Top: Children of Enchorro Primary including Yiasi creating an African Elephant drawing Bottom: Elizabeth delivering workshop to children of Iloirero Primary; Jackson © Born Free / Jane Lee McCracken

During the workshops, children watched her drawing video and were mentored by Charles, Elizabeth, teaching staff and local artists to create the outstanding drawings that form the Africa section of the exhibition mural. (See 2021 Gallery)

WDATAG? exhibition display of Kenyan species by Enchorro Primary © Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums / Colin Davison


Left to right: Dr Melvin Gumal; Bistari Mahmood receiving art equipment

Having worked with Dr Melvin Gumal, Head of Biodiversity Conservation and Research Division, Sarawak Forestry Corporation on various conservation projects since 2014, Jane invited Dr Gumal and his colleague Bistari Mahmood, to form the Malaysia Outreach Team. Due to the pandemic Malaysia schools will complete their drawings for display later this year.


The walls of Great North Museum: Hancock are Grade II listed so the museum team requested the exhibition be displayed as printed vinyls in salon-style murals in the Living Planet Gallery. 

Jane's mockup for Great North Museum exhibition © Jane Lee McCracken

While Jane scanned UK children’s drawings with help from Christine Egan-Fowler, Artist-Teacher and Ruth Gibson, Art Technician of RGS, Outreach teams worked tirelessly to scan their children’s drawings. Dr Raquel Thomas required to self-isolate at Iwokrama due to several members of staff testing positive for COVID-19, had to resort to sending the scans of Guyanan children’s drawings on a memory stick by bus from the rainforest to Georgetown. The driver, Buddy, delivered the USB safely to Rehana who was then able to send the scans to Jane.  


Scans of children's drawings from across the globe © Jane Lee McCracken

Over 900 drawings were created during the workshops. Jane curated a selection of around 600 drawings for the exhibition. Scans were then cleaned by her with assistance from Ruth Gibson. 

Henry Y7 Corbridge Middle: Aye-aye CRITICALLY ENDANGERED © Jane Lee McCracken

The process of selecting vector frames for each drawing and positioning the image within the frame took Jane many weeks. Perhaps most testing of all was working out mockups for each school set which she did on her living room floor. Each set not only had to work aesthetically alone but as part of the larger display.

Corbridge Middle mockup © Jane Lee McCracken

Folders of scans and documents of framed drawings and display mockups for each school were then sent to designer Simon Cataudo to create image files for printing. Simon also designed the introduction panel and information keys for each drawing set.

Colin Lowery then organised the printing of high quality vinyls. From 21 - 25 June, Colin with assistance from Jane, installed the exhibition as per her mockup plans.

Colin Lowery and Jane installing the exhibition at Great North Museum © Jane Lee McCracken

The week before opening, Jane finished Khan Biro drawing. Alongside the children's drawings, large format prints of Khan and Butterfly Lover, the second of her drawings are also exhibited in Living Planet Gallery. Where Did All the Animals Go? exhibition is now on permanent display at Great North Museum: Hancock. 

Butterfly Lover 2014 black and neon orange Biro drawing
Image courtesy of Dave Lee and Mrs. Atkinson

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