The Nature of Art: Deepening Conservation Connections
February 08, 2024
Whether you’re marveling at the bold, jarring lines of Andy Warhol’s “Bald Eagle,” admiring the rich pastels of Claude Monet’s “Water Lilies,” or feeling an overwhelming sense of pride for the watercolor that you, your child, or your grandchild recently completed, this holds true: Art and nature are intricately connected and together have the power to move people to action.
For more than 100 years, Mass Audubon has proudly maintained a prestigious collection of nature- and bird- inspired art, by creators from Catherine Hamilton to Frank Benson. We have also inspired people of all ages to be creative and use their outdoor explorations as their muse. Now we are looking forward to new and innovative ways to bring our collection and programs to even wider audiences—and in doing so to build deeper and more meaningful connections with the natural world around us.
A Collective History
For those familiar with Mass Audubon’s Museum of American Bird Art (MABA), you know it is one of the only museums in the nation to focus exclusively and comprehensively on art inspired by birds. With a collection of art spanning four centuries and many genres, we have long held exhibitions of works from our own collection, along with those on loan from generous collectors, partner institutions and artists. These works have provided new insights into the complex connections between birds and humans, as well as a lens to explore the motivations behind the first conservation movement in America.
While exhibitions are presently on hold, you can now, for the first time, view more than 150 treasured pieces of the collection online. And this winter, the museum has curated a series of online programs featuring renowned speakers who will touch on everything from the role of art in the conservation movement to bird art stories from “Antiques Roadshow.”
Creating Art at The Nest
It’s not enough just to view art; as an environmental education organization, we know the power that teaching and learning have on how people interact with art and the artistic process. Enter the Museum of American Bird Art Education Center and its new nature-focused makerspace, The Nest, in Canton.
Envisioned as a community gathering space where people can discover their own hidden talents and interests, The Nest merges the creativity of an art studio with the innate wonder of nature. The result: opportunities to make unique projects based on visitors’ own experiences with nature and wildlife.
Here, you can attend regularly sponsored workshops with artists in a wide variety of media (from photography to mixed media painting to ceramics), find opportunities to observe and draw live birds, and explore 1.5 miles of trails in search of your next stroke of inspiration.
More Art Across the State
Beyond the MABA, Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuaries across the state offer plentiful opportunities to both make and view art.
Surrounded by towering pines, singing warblers, and the nearby meandering of the Mill River, the Art House at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary is located in Western Massachusetts on the Tulip Tree Trail and staffed by volunteers and visiting artists on weekends and afternoons in the spring, summer, and fall. Nature-inspired art projects are available for hikers and visitors to create on a walk-in basis. You can even borrow a portable art pack to take along the trails.
And our sanctuaries with nature centers regularly partner with local artists and artist associations to exhibit original work that celebrates nature and our evolving relationship to it.
Taking Art on the Road
As a way to spread the joy of art beyond our trails, our art and nature educators attend community events and festivals at libraries, recreation departments, and senior centers throughout the year. There anyone can take part in immersive, multisensory, hands-on art creation such as producing unique monotype prints with custom stencils or nature journaling to improve our observational skills of the natural world.
More to Explore
Let nature be your muse—Mass Audubon has a plethora of art opportunities waiting for you to discover.
Don't miss a beat on all the ways you can get outdoors, celebrate nature, and get involved.