Art can inspire and educate and bring new visions

The President’s Hoot
by Richard H. Baker, Ph.D.
December 2016

We are bringing original art to Audubon House! To protect birds and habitats, we need activities that inspire, educate and peak the public’s interest. Most often, we use standard communications tools such as social media, pamphlets, photos, lectures, bird walks, and letters to the press. A mural is another valuable communications item in our toolbox to draw public attention to our activities. Art will aid in educating people about environmental issues.

Detail of mural by Deanna Derosia.

Biology artist and illustrator Deanna Derosia has been invited by PIAS to design and paint a mural on the west wall of the Audubon House breezeway, a wall sheltered from sun and rain. The mural will depict habitats of the Oslo Riverfront Conservation area along the Lagoon: Coastal Wetlands, Oak Hammock, and Scrubby Pine Flatwoods and Xeric Scrub. These habitats and their unique plants and animals, including birds that inhabit them, depend on clean water and air to sustain them. Deanna plans to illustrate more than 70 animals, plants and insects (including four mosquito species), as well as aquatic life found in the lagoon, its wetlands and mangrove swamps. The mural complements the wildlife exhibit in the Audubon House classroom.    

Deanna Derosia has received expert consultation to select the key plants and animals for the major habitats surrounding the Indian River Lagoon from the following: mosquito and habitat scientist Dr. Nathan D. Burkett-Cadena, PhD, UF/Florida Medical Entomology Lab; Janice Broda, native plant expert; Ken Gonyo, butterfly and plant expert; Bob Montanaro, habitat experience; David Simpson, birding expert, and Dr. Juanita Baker for the concept. The mural communicates and encourages bird-friendly communities and reinforces our messages about reducing impacts from climate change and human activity to conserve Florida’s natural habitats and birds.

We believe this mural will likely embolden our public to insist that elected leaders protect birds and their habitats, and envision why and how we can incorporate natural–habitat restoration into public and private grounds.  We will have demonstrated our experience in making community wall-art dynamic, fun, and successful in engaging the public.  The murals will also illustrate how tourists are drawn to our county to experience the “real” Florida habitats and their birds, thus demonstrating the need to preserve large areas for everyone’s benefit. As National Audubon is doing by bringing birds into the murals in New York City near James Audubon’s gravesite, we hope to inspire our county’s communities to see ours as a model mural with birds in the theme as has been done at Vero Beach’s Riverside Park.

The Indian River Lagoon, one of Audubon’s Florida Conservation Priorities, is the most biodiverse lagoon ecosystem in the Northern Hemisphere and is home to more than 3,000 wildlife and plant species.  The IRL includes part of the longest barrier-island complex in the nation.  Audubon will work to support efforts at the local, state and federal levels that reduce excessive nutrients from entering the Lagoon and seek other ecosystem-improvement measures.  The mural uses 31 birds, 22 plants, and 23 animals as a way to connect people to nature and get them excited about, and involved with, protection of Florida’s special coastal places

Specific Activities and Benefits surrounding the Mural:

  • The mural can be the basis for formal instruction for our Audubon Advocates children’s educational program
  • Adults at workshops, conferences or at bird and plant walks surrounding Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area will learn the basic lesson that birds depend upon specific habitats to thrive.
  • Along with informational pamphlets, it is a novel way to communicate the messages in the mural.
  • We invite press coverage while the artists work on the mural and after it is completed.
  • It will draw visitors to Audubon House on a regular basis. Murals tell us a story in a graphic and striking format.

We have written a grant to cover some of the estimated $10,000 total project costs. So far, we have commitments of $1,000 from W & J Construction, another $1,000 from a PIAS member.  Bill Halliday of Home improvement has already pressure washed the wall and will provide scaffold and ladders. Artists Elise Carter (former teacher of art at the Vero Beach Museum of Art) and Maria Maul (high school art teacher) have consulted and will help plus we need volunteers and other artists who want to offer their time and expertise. Contact our office if you would like to help at 772-567-3520. Deanna expects to have the mural completed by April of next year.  Come watch the progress, artist in action!

Your financial contributions are also welcome to help us complete the project.

ABOVE: The entire mural on the breezeway wall. Detail views below.

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