Walt Anderson to Receive 2024 Combes Award

Vancouver, BC CANADA – July 1, 2024 - Artists for Conservation is proud to recognize Walt Anderson of Prescott, Arizona, with its highest honor—the Simon Combes Conservation Artist Award—in recognition of Walt’s lifelong dedication to conservation, artistic mastery and sharing of his scientific knowledge. Since 2006, AFC bestows the award annually to individuals for exemplifying the achievements and dedication of the award’s namesake.

With the award, Walt joins a who’s-who roster of international recipients chosen for their artistic excellence and lifetime of extraordinary support of conservation. Past honorees include David Shepherd, Robert Bateman, John Banovich, Robert Glen and Sue Stolberger (joint recipients), Dr. Guy Harvey, Pollyanna Pickering, Richard Ellis, John and Suzie Seerey-Lester (joint recipients), Karen Laurence-Rowe, Guy Coheleach, Mark Hobson, Guy Combes, Priscilla Baldwin, Anne London, Kitty Harvill and Michael Dumas.

“Walt is a unique role model as an inspiring artist, scientist, passionate educator, explorer, and conservationist. He is inspired and has shared his knowledge with so many people over much of his life. This is a particularly special year to be presenting the award as it marks the 20th anniversary of Simon's passing" explains AFC President and Founder, Jeff Whiting. 

While Walt Anderson describes nature as his “ultimate teacher,” he holds multiple degrees in wildlife biology and resource ecology and was a Professor of Environmental Studies at Prescott College in Arizona for nearly three decades. A passionate naturalist, Walt uses his extensive knowledge and experience to interpret nature through words, photographs, paintings, and action. A pioneer and expert on ecotourism, having led dozens of trips around the world, Walt has authored and illustrated two authoritative books on the Sutter Buttes of California and a major chapter on ecotourism in a wildlife management volume. He posts a popular series of ‘Wild Wednesday’ photo essays that celebrate the natural world while promoting conservation. Walt’s extensive field experience informs his artwork, and his artwork complements his conservation efforts. 

Walt began his professional commitment to conservation at the age of fourteen, when he was hired to teach merit badges at a scout camp in Washington State. He taught Nature, Forestry, Wildlife Management, Bird Study, Reptile Study, and Fishing. Later he majored in Wildlife Biology and Resource Ecology at Washington State University, University of Arizona, and the University of Michigan. He has dedicated his entire adult life to conservation and education.

Walt is also a founding member, the original Chair of the board of directors of Biocultural Conservation Institute (BCI), where he uses his writing, social media, photography, and paintings to raise money for three projects in Uganda and one in Kenya.

His most recent and intensive conservation efforts have focused on the Granite Dells of Prescott, Arizona, where he is a co-founder of the Granite Dells Preservation Foundation and Save the Dells – an active political action committee. Walt uses photos and writing in many forms in these conservation efforts, and he coordinated a project with the international Artists and Biologists Unite for Nature (ABUN), co-founded by artist Kitty Harvill – another AFC Combes Award recipient. 

After visiting Uganda in 2019, Walt became aware of the plight of the Batwa pygmies, who were forcibly evicted without compensation at the creation of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Walt explains: “These hunter-gatherers were left without land or livelihood, and they have suffered horribly as a result. Occasionally, in desperation, they have gone back into the Bwindi Park to obtain food, where they are treated as ‘poachers’ if they do so. The protection of half the world’s population of Mountain Gorillas depends a great deal on getting local buy-in through community-based conservation.” In response to the plight, Walt persuaded the board of Biocultural Conservation Institute to support three community-focused non-profits dedicated to improving conditions for the Batwa and protecting the wildlife of the park. These are Joint Efforts for Green Mountain Initiative (Walt and Kitty are both board members), Sanuriro Batwa Community Development Association, and Hope Foundation Uganda. 

As a result, there have been successful completions of water and agricultural projects that have greatly improved conditions for many of the Batwa. Walt further explains: “We have also provided food for Christmas celebrations and have gained their gratitude and commitment to protecting wildlife. I proposed to ABUN the ‘Believing in Bwindi’ project to raise awareness and funds for the cause and donated the free use of the majority of the photographs used by artists worldwide for the project.” Walt assists with grant proposals, fund-raisers, and education, and he donates artwork to raise funds for these causes.

Walt’s paintings have been represented in many collections, gallery shows, book illustrations, and other graphics work. Several large recent commissions have been for the Highlands Center for Natural History. He has had two one-man shows of original paintings at the Natural History Institute Gallery in Prescott, Arizona. Most recently, he was one of four featured artists in the grand opening of the Cicada Art Gallery at Prescott College in May 2024.

Upon learning of his nomination, Walt replied, “I am stunned and so honored! AFC is a remarkable organization that prioritizes conservation action over commercialization of art. Artists are driven by a passion for wildlife and nature, and AFC has become a true community of like-minded individuals. I have long been inspired by the work of Simon Combes and the previous honorees, some of whom have become great friends. It is so gratifying to be recognized with this award, and I am confident it will help stimulate even more conservation work.” 

Guy Combes, the son of the award’s namesake, and an AFC artist member and award alumnus himself, offered high praise for Walt’s nomination: “I was over the moon to hear about the nomination of Walt for the Simon Combes award this year because of his tireless and selfless dedication to the preservation of ecosystems and wildlife.  Along with his emotional investment comes abundant scientific knowledge and a commitment to share, and on our first meeting he inspired me to theme my entire one man show around the concept of convergent evolution.” 

Walt has been a Signature Member of Artists for Conservation since 2018, during which time, his work has been featured in every AFC’s annual exhibit. He will receive the award during the Artists for Conservation Festival opening reception on September 19, 2024, in Vancouver, BC.

AFC’s Simon Combes Conservation Award was established in 2006 is the highest honour AFC presents to an artist member. The annual award has become the  world's most prestigious conservation award for visual artists. The award's namesake, Simon Combes was a prominent member of AFC until his tragic passing in 2004, when he was killed in an encounter with a Cape Buffalo near his home. Simon was Project Director of the Kenya chapter of the Rhino Rescue Trust, an organization founded in 1985 to protect endangered species from being poached, and to help the communities surrounding Lake Nakuru National Park affected by wildlife conflicts.

Learn more about Michael through his AFC website.

 

Artists for Conservation

Artists for Conservation (AFC) is the world's leading group of artists supporting the environment. Founded in 1997, the non-profit organization comprises a membership of 500 of the world's most gifted nature artists from 27 countries, across five continents. Dedicated to nurture, promote and leverage its world-class community of artists in support of our natural world, AFC drives its mission through three key programs: Art & Environmental Education; Field Work & Research; and Artist Development. The Artists for Conservation Festival is AFC's annual flagship initiative to showcase, support and further these programs. For more information, visit http://www.artistsforconservation.org.

 

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