In the summer of 2015, Ruth and I suddenly lost our father. We all shared a love of art and design, but as he was particularly attached to routine, it was hard when my weekly (Tuesday, 1:20pm sharp) phone calls ended. It was such an adjustment that it took us some time to figure out how to best honor him.
To be honest, we’re pretty proud of our solution. On what would have been his 85th birthday, we launched 85wishes.org. I curated a selection of 85 of his original collages, and we designed an e-commerce web gallery, and started fundraising for a scholarship at UConn, where Dad taught for more than 37 years. With guidance from the UConn Foundation, we upped our goal so that the scholarship could live in perpetuity.
We needed to raise $25,000 in four months.
At the time it was both daunting and exhilarating — but also a goal we felt we had to reach. The difference between a one-time prize and an annual scholarship is huge.
We branded the campaign and used every communication tool we would for one of our clients to get the message out: website, Facebook and Instagram pages, press releases, animated emails, videos. Those approaches caught the attention of people who wanted to help, and we landed 2 gallery exhibitions of additional collages and a 6-page arts magazine story.
On a day plenty ahead of our deadline, many happy tears were shed by us when we reached our goal. The project really embodied what Dad valued: making art, sharing art, arts education, and sharing what you have to lessen someone else’s burden. He was the king of slipping us “mad money” he had stashed away that we were to use for something fun. Now it was our turn.
We continue to add to the scholarship. There are a few remaining collages at 85Wishes available for purchase, so visit the site today while they still remain:
Or if you would prefer to support the cause directly, visit our Paul Zelanski Award of Excellence Fund page at the UConn Foundation below: