The Art of Conservation 2009 Opening Weekend

The opening weekend of the AFC's second annual juried exhibition – "The Art of Conservation" was a resounding success and is making more waves in the nature art community. The weekend event spanned 3 days, involved two field trips, a lecture evening, dinner & awards evening, and opening cocktail reception afternoon. The event at the Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum was attended by close to 40 members from near and far - including Australia, Europe, and all regions of North America. The ge

neral response was extremely positive. 

AFC member Charles Alexander, once again volunteered his time as event photographer and did a very professional job throughout the entire event. AFC member, Kelly Dodge was also present to volunteer her services and video equipment to record the key talks and presentations. Kelly was en-route to her AFC Flag Expedition to the Galapagos Islands. Our heartfelt thanks to them both. Following are some highlights of the weekend:

Field Trip to the Bronx Zoo

On the first day of the three-day weekend event, AFC members and guests were treated to a full day at the world-renowned zoo and headquarters of the show's beneficiary organization – the Wildlife Conservation Society. 

With the weather fully cooperating this year we had a great day to explore all the key points in the zoo with cameras operating at full capacity. The day was a wonderful start to a very full weekend.

Friday Lecture Evening & Dessert Buffet

This evening event provided an opportunity for AFC members to discuss the accomplishments of the last year as well as be briefed on the key initiatives and directions planned for the new year and beyond. Details of the briefing will be shared with all members in an upcoming announcement for the benefit of those who did not attend. We then had a special show preview and dessert buffet for AFC members hosted by the Museum.

As was the case last year, attendees were greeted not only by the beautiful historic building of the Museum, but also by an eye-catching and larger-than-life sign mounted above the Museum entrance as well as a 2.5 meter (7.5 foot) AFC flag flying from a flagpole at the entrance.

AFC President, Jeff Whiting welcomed attendees and gave a introductory talk about the AFC’s beginnings through to the launch of the this show and book. Jeff also informed attendees of the AFC’s current programs, the leadership role that the AFC plays in bringing the arts and conservation communities together and his future vision for the AFC.

Two wonderful presentations followed, one by David Rankin who had prepared a great audio-visual presentation of his flag journal and some of the photos taken during his flag expedition to the headwaters of the Ganges River in India, A reproduction of his journal was on display and was truly outstanding. We then had a slide presentation by Terry Woodall on his Flag Expedition to Lake Baikal in Siberia where he studied the only fresh water seals, the Nerpa. 

Field Trip to the American Museum of Natural History 

Saturday was a very full day starting with our field trip to the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan.  As Senior Exhibitions Manager at the AMNH and world authority on museum dioramas ,AFC member Steve Quinn provided courtesy passes for over 50 attendees to what became a true highlight of the entire weekend. Steve wowed the group with an inspiring and highly educational day, starting with a lecture about the key role artists have played in the creation of some very early conservation initiatives including the creation of Yellowstone National Park and even the founding of the AMNH. Steve walked us through the famous Akeley Hall of Mammals and introduced us to the intense detail and background work involved in the creation of each dramatic diorama. Artists were then treated to an encore behind-the-scenes look at exhibitions department studios. This included a view of a new special exhibit under construction, that involved a 120 foot mural that Steve himself was painting.

VIP Dinner & Awards Evening  

Saturday evening was the night for which many artists travelled great distances. Over 100 guests (including artists) were present for the evening celebration. The Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum hosted a top-notch VIP cocktail reception, three course dinner and awards ceremony for exhibiting artists, special patron guests, as well as representatives from WCS and AFC. As Master of Ceremonies, AFC President Jeff Whiting, welcomed guests and spoke briefly about the show, as well as the AFC and its programs. 

Five AFC artists were presented with the AFC "Medals of Excellence", for their artworks in the show – the show jury reconvened at the Museum in late August to select the 5 awards from the actual artworks. The five award-winners, in alphabetical order were:

  • Carel Brest Van Kempen for his "Creekside Conclave -Varied Harlequin Toads" This is the artwork that is featured on the cover of this year's show companion book,
  • Jim Coe for "Snowy Fields",
  • Guy Combes for his "The Creche" of an elephant family
  • Andrea Rich for her woodblock print "Cranes in the Mist", and
  • Mary Taylor for her lifesize metal sculpture "The Filly".

Each recipient of the AFC Medal of Excellence received a custom cast pewter medal, mounted in a custom velvet-backed wood and Lucite frame displaying a silver plate bearing a description of the award and the name of the recipient. 

Chairman of the Blauvelt Museum, James Bellis Jr., presented the Blauvelt Purchase Award to Robert Glen for his bronze casting, "Warthog Running". 

A new "Wildscape Editor's Choice" award was created this year in recognition of our UK media sponsor, Wildscape Magazine. This year the award went to Patricia Pepin for her painting "Takhi". Also recognized by the magazine for special recognition were Doug Aja ("Final Warning"), Sally Berner ("Washed Up") and Linda Sutton ("Imposing Prescents").

The first AFC Globetrotters Award was presented to the member who travelled the greatest distance to attend the opening weekend celebrations. Travelling the greatest distance was Chris McClelland with his wife Margie from Hay, New South Wales, Australia, only slightly edging out Lyn Ellison and Peta Boyce, also from Australia. The AFC is purchasing a Gold Standard carbon offset for the carbon footprint left by Chris' travels.

The evening's most coveted prize was the Simon Combes Conservation Award, given by the AFC to an artist member who has shown extraordinary support for the conservation cause through his or her art. This year's recipient was renowned American artist John Banovich. John was presented with a certificate and a special bronze sculpture trophy, designed by AFC artist Peter Gray of South Africa. John addressed the audience with an inspirational talk about the role of artist in conservation.

John went on to describe the role of the "Banovich Wildscapes Foundation" in fostering cooperative efforts to conserve the world's wild places to benefit wildlife and the people that live there. He emphasized the importance of providing an economic benefit to the local populations who frequently receive little benefit from the endangered habitats that surround them. A percentage of the proceeds from Banovich merchandise are donated to the Banovich Wildscapes Foundation.

On behalf of all AFC members, we congratulate those selected for these special awards.


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