GREENSBORO – Eight New England artists come together in an exhibition that tells the story of endangered species at the Gallery at Highland Center for the Arts, now through November 22.
Reaching beyond statistics, policy, and politics, the paintings in “A Critical Balance” bring to life a selection of animals that are listed as endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List. The conservation status of a species is an indicator of how likely it is to remain alive at present or in the near future. Several dozen species are included in the exhibition, from the far-flung mountain gorilla and hawkbill sea turtle to a set of Vermont’s own rusty patched bumblebee and several varieties of hummingbirds. One painting is equipped with Augmented Reality, where a visitor may use their smartphone to view the creature in its natural habitat.
“A Critical Balance” artists have a special connection to the natural world. Through their paintings, they take the opportunity to share their observations and use their art to express the beauty of their selected endangered species, and the need to protect them. Each painting is life-sized: some paintings are large; some are small.
The exhibit recognizes that today many of the creatures that are familiar to us are on the cusp of extinction. They might not be here for future generations to experience. Scientists estimate that 150-200 species of plant, insect, bird, and mammal become extinct every 24 hours. This is nearly 1,000 times the “natural” rate. Many biologists say this is greater than anything the world has experienced since the vanishing of the dinosaurs nearly 65 million years ago.
Vermont has its own critical balance around endangered species. Vermont passed legislation in the early 1970s to protect Vermont’s threatened and endangered species. Since, three species have recovered enough to be removed from the list of vulnerable species: the peregrine falcon, the osprey, and the common loon. The bald eagle is slated to join this group of recovered survivors within the next few years.
Public awareness and involvement are key components to maintaining a balanced and diverse natural community. Highland Center for the Arts invites Vermonters and visitors to experience “A Critical Balance,” and welcomes teachers, homeschool parents, and students to incorporate the exhibit in conservation and biology curriculum this fall.
Artists participating in the workshop include Michael Boardman, North Yarmouth, Maine; Heidi Broner, Central Vermont; Linda Mirabile, Berlin, Vermont; Shearon Murphy, Winthrop, Maine; Susan Parmenter, Sunapee, New Hampshire; Suzanne Stryk, Southwest Virginia; Gabriel Tempesta, Northern Vermont; Adelaide Murphy Tyrol, Plainfield, Vermont.