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Jean Blackburn

The Literal Down-to-Earth Jean Blackburn in Old Myakka

| Sheri Nadelman |

Besides making music, I really love to take pictures – especially of nature.  I also love to write about interesting people that I get to meet.  There’s always a story.  Recently, I was lucky enough to have been invited to the home of extraordinary husband and wife environmentalists, Jean Blackburn and Steven Schaefer.  Their 14-acre property nestled out in Old Myakka boasts countless species of plants and abundant wildlife, which was such a treat on so many levels.

Jean Blackburn

Jean, a proud third generation Florida native, grew up on Anna Maria Island.  She has worked feverously throughout her life to bring awareness to the environment as a conservationist, teacher and artist.  Upon our meeting, I was immediately struck by how much she reminded me of the famed anthropologist Dr. Jane Goodall.  The similarities are undeniable.  Both are strong women, passionate about the planet and its creatures.  Both women have dedicated their lives to protecting the environment.  And both women can rock a ponytail!

Jean Blackburn

Jean’s impressive credentials read like a laundry list!  She holds an MFA (University of Oregon), a BA (University of Fl), an AS in Biological Parks Technology (State College of FL).  She is a Certified Master Gardner and Master Naturalist and is a plethora of information about all things ecological.  She has held teaching positions at Ringling College of Art & Design, the University of Oregon and at the State College of Florida.  She has sailed throughout the Caribbean, Central America and the Bahamas.  Both she and Steven, who is a retired attorney and a photographer as well, have held many different conservation foundation board positions.  Currently, as board members of Friends of Myakka River, they continue, as they have for the last fifteen plus years, to volunteer at Myakka River State Park.  There, they access remote areas by horseback specifically to remove invasive plants. 

Jean Blackburn

An accomplished artist, Jean shares her talents through several mediums, including photography, painting, and printmaking.  As a contemporary painter, we see the world through Jean’s eyes as she captures snippets of nature and presents them in a glorious, oftentimes abstract manner.  Her studio is filled with all sorts of supplies, including beer cans which she uses to create the most incredible pieces of art!  Her work has been exhibited locally and abroad.

Jean Blackburn

Like Goodall, Jean has a special relationship with many of the creatures who inhabit the property.  She and Steven also rehabilitate injured wildlife.  The day I was there, I was introduced to a beautiful horse they were taking care of as well as their own.   I also got to meet Jack the Steer who was looking quite handsome lying in the sun chewing on some hay.  The highlight for me was an appearance of two resident River Otters who were abandoned and malnourished as pups.  I was just astounded to see how they came running to her as she called to them and then watched in amazement as she hand fed them!

Jean Blackburn

Jean’s passion for the planet is apparent.  The gardens have all sorts of species of flowers and vegetables and there are butterflies galore.  My camera had a good workout!  This lovely lady is by far one of the coolest and literally down-to-earth humans I’ve ever met.

I later found out that Dr. Jane Goodall is one of Jean’s inspirations.

Jean Blackburn, you are one of mine!

For information about Friends of Myakka River, go HERE.

Sheri Nadelman is an accomplished musician, nature photographer and a frequent contributor to the Suncoast Post. Social @sherimakesmusic 

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