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New York, NY - Acclaimed American painter Ross Bleckner, will be appointed a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Goodwill Ambassador to Combat Human Trafficking. The appointment marks the first time an artist has been bestowed the honor of becoming a UN Goodwill Ambassador.

The induction ceremony will take place on Tuesday, May 12th, at 6pm in the United Nations Delegates Dining Room, on the occasion of the opening of "Welcome to Gulu", an exhibition curated by Bleckner on behalf of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the International Criminal Court's Trust Fund for Victims.

The 12 May UN opening features 200 paintings created by former child soldiers and abducted girls from Gulu, Uganda. The New York Times has described the paintings as "luminous" (see "For Child Soldiers, a Chance to Wield Brushes, Not Arms" by Randy Kennedy New York Times 28 April 2009). Proceeds raised by the sale of the children's paintings, as well as portraits taken by Bleckner, will benefit former child soldiers and abducted girls.

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. In January 2009, Bleckner joined the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the International Criminal Court Trust Fund for Victims on an official mission to Gulu, assisting in the rehabilitation of former child soldiers and abducted girls through art therapy. Bleckner conducted a workshop for these children, encouraging them to come to terms with their past through artistic expression. For more, go to: http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/costas-corner/descent-into-the-heart-of-darkness.html

Ross Bleckner first came to international prominence in the 1980's with his abstract paintings. His work has been exhibited in esteemed collections throughout the world, including: The Guggenheim, MoMA, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. For the past 20 years, he has taught Studio Art at leading institutions (currently at NYU's Steinhardt School). An early supporter of AIDS research, Bleckner has been a board member of ACRIA (AIDS Community Research Initiative of America) since its founding, and spent more than a decade as its President. As a UNODC Goodwill Ambassador, Bleckner's duties will include advocacy on behalf of victims of human trafficking and other crimes.

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The United Nations has culled a distinguished group of leaders in the arts, entertainment and business communities to serve on the Benefit Host Committee for the exhibition opening, including: Graydon Carter; artists Jeff Koons, Chuck Close, and Brice Marden; designers Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, and Rachel Roy; Harry Belafonte; Academy Award winning actors Nicolas Cage; Rachel Weisz, and Mira Sorvino; actors Alec Baldwin, Carey Lowell, Candice Bergen, and Ashley Judd; Russell Simmons; Academy Award nominated Director Darren Aronofsky ("The Wrestler"); Academy Award nominated director/writer/producer Terry George ("Hotel Rwanda", "In the Name of the Father"); Karenna Gore Schiff; ABC News Nightline Anchor Cynthia McFadden; ABC News Anchor Deborah Roberts; Wendi Murdoch; Agnes Gund (MoMA's President Emerita); Thelma Golden (Chief Curator The Studio Museum in Harlem); and art collectors Eli and Edythe Broad, and Patricia and Gustavo Cisneros.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is the lead UN agency fighting all forms of human trafficking including: sexual slavery, child soldiering, forced labor, illegal adoption, and illegal organ transfers. UNODC works with governments, NGOs, the private sector, foundations, the arts and media community, academia and think-tanks to combat human trafficking by raising public awareness, engaging in preventative efforts and enhancing the capacity and skills of criminal justice professionals and policymakers.

United Nations Under-Secretary General, Antonio Maria Costa, the Executive-Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reflects: "Art is one of the most powerful advocacy tools to raise awareness and move people to take action. A painting says a thousand words. Appointing Ross Bleckner as a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Goodwill Ambassador, and opening this exhibition at the UN, provides a unique opportunity to implore others to join us in our fight against conscription of children, and other forms of human trafficking and modern day slavery. We know that Ross' extraordinary commitment to the plight of trafficking victims will move people to take action against modern day slavery."

After the May 12 event, a selection of artwork will be on view at New York's Lehman Maupin Gallery. A fully illustrated 64-page catalog designed by Shahid & Company featuring work by 25 artists will be available at the May 12 event.

This May 12 event has generously been underwritten by ARTOC on behalf of the End Human Trafficking Now Initiative, established by Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak, First Lady of Egypt.

To reserve tickets call 212.963.5631 or email monasebian@un.org

The UN has also received additional generous support from Moschino for the "Welcome to Gulu" project.


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