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21st Annual Artists for Africa Benefit help Tanzania's rainforests

03rd April 2012

This April will see the 21st Annual Artists for Africa Benefit take place at New York's Prince George Ballroom with plenty on offer for both art lovers and conservationists.

The event, to be held on April 11th, is organised by the African Rainforest Conservancy (ARC) and honoured at the event will be well-known environmental couple Kris and Doug Tompkins.

Appearing at the event will be a strong of acclaimed artists and performers who will exhibit their work in various auctions, be they silent or vocal, and exhibitions around the ballroom.

Artists including William Abranowicz, Chris Dei, Gerald Forster and Spencer Tunick will all have works exhibited, among others, while other similarly well-heralded artists that have supported the ARC's cause will also be present.

The ARC's cause is an extremely noble one, having been involved in the protection of rainforests across the continent for years.

This specific fundraiser has been set up in order to help contribute to the conservation of Tanzania’s Eastern Arc Mountains and Coastal Forests. It aims to do this by encouraging local communities to look into the running of their forests and take charge.

The ARC works alongside the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG) in order to try and support a network of 146 villages across eight mountain and coastal regions in the country.

By doing this, the two organisations can hope to protect 250,000 acres of forest and they will focus on a series of sub-genres. These include advocacy, Participatory Forest Management, environmental education, community development, and biological research.

Both the ARC and the TFCG are all too aware of the challenges that face Tanzania’s forests as well as the millions of people who depend on them for their livelihoods.

Carter Coleman, the ARC founder and president, said that the work being done in Tanzania is necessary, describing the region as a "critical hotspot".

This is also where the aforementioned Kris and Doug Tompkins come in. The pair both left highly successful careers in order to help preserve forests in Chile and Argentina.

It is for this reason, among others, that the couple have been honoured at this event, with Mr Carter adding: "The Tompkins show how an entrepreneurial spirit can best be applied to helping save our precious resources.

"The breadth of the efforts launched by the Tompkins to do something of far-reaching impact is truly an inspiration," he continued. 

"Their work has raised awareness for their many initiatives, but also for organizations such as ours."

While the art on offer and the great cause will undoubtedly be two big pulls for the event, there is also another weapon it has in its arsenal, a slightly more unusual weapon.

This weapon is actually the naming of a newly-discovered frog species. We did say it was unusual.

The frog is being official named in order to honour the Tompkins duo changes and is believed to change colour from a milky white during the daytime to yellow with brown spots during the night.

The species was discovered in the Nguru South and Nguu North Mountains of the Eastern Arc rainforest of Tanzania with attendees of the event no doubt eager to find out just what it will be named.

Doug Tompkins commented: "To protect biodiversity, we have to work simultaneously on many fronts. It's all connected—from South America to Africa and to every other continent."

Doug's wife Kris added: "It seems we all started in this direction around the same time, over 20 years ago.

"As fellow conservationists working in a different area of the world, we appreciate being honoured by ARC, a group of kindred spirits with a similar mission."

However, frog naming aside, a choral performance by the New York City Master Chorale will also be high on the list of 'things to see' at the event.

Under Thea Kano's stewardship, the troupe have composed a score entitled Water and Night. Excerpts of this are set to be previewed during the benefit, the perfect accompaniment to a night of art and merriment.

Merriment won't be in short supply either, with the cocktails set to be flowing from 6pm onwards. Fellow sponsors Santa Teresa Rum, Thomas Hooker and Volvic Natural Spring Water will all be proffered to guests to keep the mood upbeat.

The next two and a half hours will see much mingling and a silent auction take place while 8.30pm will mark the start of the aforementioned entertainment as well as the live auction and the serving of dinner.

Sales of the tickets have already begun, with an advance dinner ticket setting guests back around $400, for a good cause of course.

A certain degree of pressure will surely rest on the shoulders of ARC and, to an extent, the attendees of the event. This is purely down to the fact that the organisation is the only US non-profit organization dedicated solely to the preservation of Tanzanian forests.

However, with the common aim of dealing in top quality art and saving some of Tanzania's primal rainforest areas, everyone involved in the event will no doubt be giving it their all.

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