karen blessen by Danny Fulgencio
Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Peacemaker of the Year Award:
Karen Blessen


Karen Blessen’s innate creative mandate is to break through boundaries to incorporate art in new, thought provoking ways.

In 1989 her illustrative contributions to a Dallas Morning News team’s investigative report about an airplane crash resulted in Karen being named the first graphic artist to win a Pulitzer Prize. Since the 1990’s the DMN has published Karen’s visual and written pieces about cancer, AIDS, luck, listening, confetti, arts funding, a murder, education in non-violence and mothers.

In 1994 Karen was given the distinct honor by NYC’s Times Square Business Improvement District to create a signature look for the New Times Square. Her graphics on banners, buses, posters, billboards, print and the web, heralded every Times Square BID event into the Millennium.

In 2002 and again in 2003 Save the Children invited Karen to be the artist’s voice of an HIV/AIDS exploratory committee traveling to Africa. Her mission was to chronicle her thoughts and visions about the African people who are living with AIDS. Excerpts from these illustrated journals were used by Save The Children to raise awareness and was published as Faces of a Plague — a multi-page article in The Dallas Morning News. That article was developed into a theatrical production titled Today Marks the Beginning, raising over $40,000 to help support two villages in Malawi.

art is everywhereIn 2004, Penguin Books chose Karen to illustrate the life vision of peace activist Jeremy Gilley. Two years of Karen’s involvement resulted in the award winning book, Peace One Day, outlining Mr. Gilley’s successful struggle to establish September 21 as The International Day of Peace. Karen’s drawings and collages document Mr. Gilley’s awesome efforts and the resulting accomplishment in terms that children can understand.

After a young man was shot and killed in her front yard, Karen did a story and art for the Dallas Morning News titled ONE Bullet. Compelled by her passion and the outrage at the colossal waste of violence, Karen co-founded the non-profit organization, 29 Pieces, which uses art to awaken, uplift and give voice to the creative human spirit to create genuine, positive social change. Monumental Change Monumental Art.

In 2007, Karen envisioned and became the project manager of the 29 Pieces Education Program, Artists Making a Kinder World. Teachers confirm that the 14 project based lessons teach compassion, empathy, respect, and love, while also teaching presentation skills, teamwork and acaemic subjects. This innovative program has now reached more than 40,000 students in area schools.

In the early 2000s, Karen was commissioned to create sculpture, mosaics and an urban park design for a the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Station (Baylor/Deep Ellum), which opened in September 2009.
In November of 2010, Karen was chosen by the Dallas Observer as one of three MasterMinds of the Arts in Dallas, as part of the publication’s first MasterMinds competition.

In 2013, Karen led the Dallas LOVE Project, as a monumental public art project as a challenge to the label given to Dallas as a City of Hate, after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. This project involved 120 community partners, 67 exhibit locations, 20,000 artists, 10,000 pieces of exhibited art on the subject of unconditional love, more than 65 media stories worldwide and 185 million media impressions. Mayor Mike Rawlings said of the Dallas LOVE Project, “This grassroots, community effort by thousands of artists was a tremendous help to me, in demonstrating our city’s character — that we are a city of art, and more — a city of love.”
pieces24 hand
Beginning in early 2015, Karen began directing the Piece 24 Project, the first project of 29 Pieces in which one of the 29 Pieces will be built at full scale, and installed at a public location in Dallas. 29 Pieces is working with high school students from Adamson, Sunset, Booker T. Washington, Irma Rangel and Dallas Can Academy, along with professional artists in this project. See more about the project on their website: www.29Pieces.org


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