Rama’s greatest gifts did not begin to be revealed until 2001. After a routine medical test, in which Rama was asked to spray a saline solution into a container, Rama kept following the keepers around, blowing air out of his trunk. While watching his children play with paint, keeper Jeb Barsh got the idea to train Rama to paint. Rama showed exceptional interest in spray and brush painting and these skills became Rama’s opportunity to thrive.
People love Rama. He amazes children. His paintings have sold before they had time to dry. Rama has generated more than $100,000 in painting sales. His Portland gallery exhibition was a sell-out and his list of commissions kept growing.
In the summer of 2006, while on vacation in Seattle with her two teenaged children, Calley was drawn to visit Portland because of its global reputation as a model green city. On a visit to the Oregon Zoo, they arrived at the elephant barn at the exact moment when Rama began his Sunday painting demonstration. As soon as Rama started painting, Calley knew in her bones that she had to work with him.
After Rama’s startling demonstration, Calley offered an on-the-spot proposal to create a collaborative touring exhibition to help build a life support system for imperiled species through art.
A year later, Calley arrived at the elephant barn as a project volunteer for a month. Thus began the wildest and most meaningful creative experience of her life. With the keepers’ support, Rama, Jeb and Calley painted together intensively each summer for five years, and Calley continues work on the paintings and exhibition design year round.
The first time I saw Rama paint, the Rama Exhibition came through me as a vision. I felt it in every cell, and it was so compelling and clear that I had to follow the vision, no matter what. Calley O'Neill
An International Traveling Exhibition of Endangered Species
Dedicated to the Children of the World by Calley O'Neill with Rama the Elephant
AN EPIC JOURNEY OF ART AND SOUL FOR THE EARTH
RAMA: AMBASSADOR FOR THE ENDANGERED ONES
Speaking Passionately on Behalf of Those who Cannot Speak