Charity Oetgen Alumna Featured in National Georgraphic Commemorating Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund

Laguna College of Art and Design (LCAD) BFA in Drawing & Painting (2014) and MFA in Painting (2017) alumna, Charity Oetgen, has published six paintings in a recently released issue of National Geographic honoring the 50th anniversary of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. Oetgen will appear at three events during Dr. Jane Goodall’s U.S. tour to mark the 40thanniversary of the Jane Goodall Institute.


“These projects embody everything I want to do with my artwork, blending conservation and art to make a difference,” Oetgen said.


Oetgen was approached by Tara Stoinski, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, while showing 58 paintings at The Joint Meeting of the International Primatological Society and the American Society of Primatologists in August 2016. Impressed by her work, Stoinski recommended her to National GeographicWithin three weeks, Oetgen worked closely with the editorial team to sketch and paint the final watercolors of Digit, the gorilla who had formed a close bond with Fossey in 1967, as well as other gorillas the foundation has supported.


For Oetgen, it was an emotional and serendipitous experience.


“I would find myself in tears that all of this was happening,” she said. “The week after I was commissioned by National Geographic, the Jane Goodall Institute invited me to join Dr. Goodall on her institute’s 40th anniversary tour.” When Oetgen received her BFA from LCAD in 2014, she was asked by the Goodall Institute of France to create a painting as an 80th birthday gift for Dr. Goodall.


Oetgen credits Sharon Allicotti, artist and LCAD professor, for inspiring her on her journey of using art in support of conservation efforts of primates and other endangered animals. “She told me that I spoke more about bonobos than art and I should find a way to bring these two influences together in my life,” she remembers. Since then, Oetgen has completed independent study in the Democratic Republic of Congo and has exhibited work at Laguna Art Museum, Studios on the Park in Paso Robles as well as the Jane Goodall Institute France. She has also showcased art at the Great Ape Summit in Jackson Hole, WY and was commissioned by Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) to create art for their great ape infographic and the cover of their magazine. Wallis Annenberg was presented with Oetgen’s bonobo paintings as a thank you to the Annenberg Foundation, on behalf of Friends of Bonobos and Claudine André. 


For more information about Oetgen’s work, please visit