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Volume 15, Issue 42  | May 26, 2023Subscribe

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Where did all the Animals Go? exhibit at Great Northern Museum in England has Laguna connection


Laguna resident Kirsten Bruce proudly announces that her cousin Jane Lee McCracken’s Where Did All the Animals Go? Project wildlife drawings are now on exhibit at Great Northern Museum in Hancock Newcastle upon Tyne in NE England. The exhibit will continue until September 5, 2021. For exhibition video, click here.

In 2019, Jane, an artist and designer, founded Where Did All the Animals Go? (WDATAG?) Project, which combines art and environmental education. Sharing her passions for drawing and wildlife, she has conducted drawing workshops for hundreds of children and adults. For a further explanation of WDATAG?, click here.

Jane says, “Through drawing, education, and the opportunity of self-expression, I hope to generate individual compassion toward animals and the environment while encouraging collective responsibility to further cherish and conserve the planet’s remaining wildlife for future generations. If we care, we want to conserve.”

Where did Jane

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Courtesy of Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums/Colin Davison

Artist Jane Lee McCracken

The Where did all the Animals Go? (WDATAG?) exhibit features printed vinyls of original Biro drawings by over 600 children from Northeast and international schools, who participated in Jane’s workshops. 

In February 2020, some of those workshops took place right here in Laguna at Top of the World Elementary and El Morro Elementary Schools, and as part of the exhibit, student drawings are included.

Partnering with Born Free

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, McCracken now lives in Northumberland. She constructs intricate, multi-layered Biro drawings, sculptures, installations, and designs products. Her work explores loss to both humans and animals generated by human destruction and is representational of both life’s beauty and brutal reality. 

In 2014, she founded Drawing for Endangered Species Workshops in partnership with international wildlife charity Born Free. 

Born Free was established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna – who starred in the movie classic Born Free (1966) – along with their eldest son, Will Travers OBE. Born Free’s mission is to ensure that all wild animals, whether living in captivity or in the wild, are treated with compassion and respect and are able to live their lives according to their needs. For Born Free Foundation’s recent Endangered Species Conference, hosted by Jane, click here.

Where did closeup California wall

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Courtesy of Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums/Colin Davison

Drawings from California – the blue whale is by Taylor, a student at El Morro 

A description of the exhibition reads: “Through the visual art of drawing, one of the oldest forms of communication, these drawings portray some of the world’s most vulnerable species, many of which face extinction. Evocative and uninhibited, each portrait depicts an individual being that plays a vital role in its ecosystem, while contemplating what their eyes have seen. This exhibition provides an opportunity to form connections with each species, through the creative response of a generation of young people. Also on display are large format prints of Jane’s original Biro drawings Butterfly Lover and Khan.”

Laguna connection

Jane visited Laguna last year just prior to the pandemic. “Jane came to visit me in January 2020, right before COVID-19 changed our world,” Kirsten says. “I learned about her UK schools based project, WDATAG?, and during her visit she provided free workshops for children at the Boys & Girls Club and in my home. Laguna Art Museum met Jane and she went on to provide workshops for them too.”

She was invited by LAM to participate in its annual Art & Nature festival and delivered a virtual Californian Wildlife workshop in November 2020 for Orange County families. 

Where did Rosie

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Courtesy of Jane Lee McCracken

Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle drawn by Rosie Rogers when she was a student at TOW

Curator of Education at Laguna Art Museum Marinta Skupin says, “We loved being part of Jane’s wonderful and powerful project! Jane’s use of art to honor 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.”

Kirsten explains how our 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.”

Where did Amanda Guyana

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Courtesy of Jane Lee McCracken

Amanda in Guyana 

Expanding virtual workshops

“When COVID changed our education to a virtual world, this changed our project plan and actually helped it flourish,” says Jane. “We expanded to five continents, providing workshops virtually, and are now at the grand finale stage, after two years, of exhibiting the children’s art (July 1-September 5) at the prestigious Great North Museum in Hancock, NE England.”

Part of Jane’s vision for this project, as it grew internationally, was to invite the schools to connect internationally by twinning (or pairing) them – 

communication and children being key in the success of conserving our wildlife. 

The expansion included dynamic teams of educators and conservationists from England, Kenya, California, Guyana, and Malaysia. The project aims to encourage the growth of collective responsibility towards wildlife conservation and welfare while giving children, communities, and wildlife both locally and globally, a voice.

“Born Free Kenya developed our African outreach team,” says Jane. “We were also lucky to be connected through Born Free Foundation to our Asian outreach team in Malaysia. Their workshops are unfolding now – delayed by COVID restrictions – and we look forward to adding their art to our exhibition from rainforest communities in Sarawak.” 

Where did Kenya

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Courtesy of Jane Lee McCracken

Workshop in Kenya 


Children’s art invokes an emotional response, and it is Jane’s hope that these hand-drawn images promote a desire to conserve our planet’s precious wildlife. This project was a seed decades ago when Jane was a child herself; when she learned about the extinction of the Caspian Tiger, she vowed she would do all she could to help prevent animals becoming extinct. 

Dr. Kate Holden, Learning Officer at the Great North Museum, said, “We are delighted to showcase the work of children from Northeast England and around the world in our Living Planet Gallery. Their reflection on the state of nature highlights the need to act now to secure the future of the planet they are inheriting.”

Where did museum interior

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Courtesy of Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums/Colin Davison

Exhibition ends on September 5, 2021 

Future plans

According to Kirsten, the plan going forward is to create a U.S.-based nonprofit called “Drawing for the Planet,” to be able to provide endangered wildlife educational material through the media of art. Drawing species with a simple ball point pen, teaching children and communities Jane’s mantras that “everyone can draw” and “if we care we want to conserve.”

“We hope to raise funds and support to be able to give workshop educational and art materials – curated by Jane – and financially support educators in underserved communities both in the United States and across the world,” Kirsten says. 

This project has had a tremendous impact and continues to have. It grew from 10 schools in the Northeast of England to 24 across the globe, providing educational material for communities about their wildlife. 

For more information about Jane Lee McCracken, go to


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