Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Art with a conscience

Morning at the Stork Club, oil painting by Inez Hudson. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

Morning at the Stork Club, oil painting by Inez Hudson. SUBMITTED PHOTOS


Tara O’Neill 

The busy season is ending and while many in our coastal communities are shifting into low gear for the slow summer months, the Marco Island Center for the Arts is revving up for a juried exhibition of great import for the month of May. An exhibit, it might be said, with a conscience.

The Gallery of the Endangered will feature artists’ interpretation of imperiled flora and fauna around the world. Works will be in a multitude of media, including two and three dimensional pieces. The exhibit runs through the month of May, with a very special reception scheduled Tuesday, May 8, 5:30-7PM. The reception is free, and open to the public.

Perhaps you lovers of nature wonder why such a blockbuster event is scheduled so late in the season? May is the beginning of turtle nesting season here on the coast of Southwest Florida. This phenomenon of nature is both mysterious and magnificent. It’s also in great need of human cooperation to break the cycle of unwitting death and destruction. Turtles travel great distances to find the beaches upon which they will dig their shallow nests and lay their eggs. Once the eggs are buried, mother turtle returns to the sea leaving her babies to hatch, dig their way out, and make their own march to sea unassisted.

Well, almost unassisted. Mary Nelson, affectionately known as the Turtle Lady, is “godmother” to countless turtles who make it to their destiny. She overseas the marking of nests as they appear, one-by-one, day-after-day. They’re right hard to detect to the untrained eye, and without the help of Mary and her team, they could easily be plunged with a beach

Kemp’s ridley sea turtle is on the federal endangered species list.

Kemp’s ridley sea turtle is on the federal endangered species list.

umbrella or chair leg. (I expect a massive collective shudder at the very thought.)

Marking the nests is not Mary’s only contribution, but I’m not the one to give you the what-for’s and how-to’s on the subject. Mary has graciously consented to attend the Center’s reception, bringing with her a fascinating display and a whole arsenal of information to help us help the little guys git ‘er done.

But turtles are just a part of this exhibit, and Mary Nelson is just one of the conservation non-profits attending the reception. Also confirmed at press-time are representatives of Rookery Bay Estuarine Research Center. The Research Center is a magnificent facility located on Tower Road (off 951 across from WalMart), they offer guided kayak and walking tours, lectures and demonstrations, an exhibition hall, and much more. If you’ve never visited, perhaps this event will inspire you to do so. [Every year Friends of Rookery Bay partners with United Arts Council to host an exhibition of paintings, and another of photography, celebrating our astounding sub-tropical environment.]

For artists of nature, the protection and preservation of our environment is paramount. Don’t miss this opportunity to experience their personal visions of our living treasures, along with a chance to learn how we all can help protect those treasures.

Marco Island Center for the Arts, 1010 Winterberry Dr, Marco, 394-4221,

Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, 300 Tower Rd, Naples, 417-6310,

Tara O’Neill, a lifelong artist, has been an area resident since 1967. She holds Bachelors Degrees in Fine Arts and English from the University of South Florida, and currently has a studio-gallery at the Artist Colony at the Esplanade on Marco Island. Contact her through 

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