“I think that art always helps people communicate. Despite whatever views they have. To see that beauty really touches their heart and then it makes them think about the other people in a more personal and a more empathetic way.” — Jane Oppenheim, ZATA Project.
Jane Oppenheim is the founder of the ZATA Project which stands for Zimbabwe AIDS Treatment Assistance which is an organization that buys paintings from artists in Zimbabwe, sells the paintings here in the United States, and then donates all of the profits to doctors at the University of Zimbabwe who are working on AIDS research. Ever since they were founded 14 years ago, they’ve sold nearly 900 paintings.
On the walls of her house sit gorgeous paintings, created by artists in Zimbabwe. These paintings are part of the ZATA Project.
“This is a calligraph which is a copper. They use copper to make the paintings, it’s a copper lithograph technique. It’s some people do wood blocks, this is copper. But they do a lot of African animals. We sell a lot of African animals. They’re so great. But anyway that’s one of ours and this is one of my favorites.”
Oppenheim tell’s KGNU’s Lucy Soucek that ZATA is a 501C3, nonprofit which supports the work of doctors at the University of Colorado and the University of California in their research in Zimbabwe.
“The doctors at University of Colorado and University of California San Diego go over to Zimbabwe and they have clinical trials in AIDS. So they test drugs there. And they work with their colleagues who are also doctors at University of Zimbabwe and then when they’re over there, they put these paintings in their suitcases and bring them back. It’s a very mom and pop situation. So they bring them back, they buy them directly from the artists, we reimburse the doctors for buying them, and they bring back the artwork and we have auctions. And we’ve had silent auctions . . . they’re more like parties.”
The money raised through the auctions is donated directly to the researchers at the University of Zimbabwe.
“Anything they ask for, we will fund it. They’re our colleagues at the University of Zimbabwe in fact several of them are on our advisory board. And if they come to us with what they need . . . the past 5 years they’ve needed chemotherapy drugs because they have comorbidities with AIDS.”
Here in Colorado, the community has been quick to help where they can. When Jane initially founded the project, lawyers donated their time to set up the 501C3 and doctors from Colorado and Zimbabwe formed an advisory board right away. And since then, framers have even helped to mat the paintings for free.
“It’s just been very heartwarming to see how many people will chip in. And I hope they get business. You know we always put their names in the program and we have their names on the back of the paintings so maybe they want something else framed and maybe now they think of that framer. Because they’re enormously philanthropic.”
In addition to raising money for these doctors, Oppenheimer says they also want to create cross-cultural compassion. They want to give people something beautiful, so that they’ll look at their paintings and remember why they bought them.
“I think that art always helps people communicate. Despite whatever views they have. To see that beauty really touches their heart and then it makes them think about the other people in a more personal and a more empathetic way.”