A week ago, I was fortunate enough to have a four-hour tour of the Rainforest Reserve, a 3,500-acre parcel of coastal mountains from south of Cannon Beach to Oswald West State Park. The North Coast Land Conservancy (NCLC) has a contract to purchase and hold this invaluable land in trust for public benefit forever. 

Katie Voelke, NCLC’s executive director, and geologist Tom Horning led the tour, revealing the immense beauty of the basalt cliffs and the abundance of rare and diverse plants and wildlife. I now understand why they call this area the Galapagos of Oregon and how truly unique an environment this is.

At the end of the tour, arriving back at sea level I was struck by how I was feeling. My mind was calm, my body peaceful. I didn’t feel in a hurry to rush somewhere or to check my phone for messages. A few hours in nature, and I felt rejuvenated.

When I was back in the gallery later and speaking with some customers about the effect a painting was having on them, I realized that immersing your senses on a beautiful piece of artwork has the same effect!  It slows us down and engages us to really look at what we are seeing.

Over these many months of planning for this festival, excited about combining the arts with environmental conservation, I never so clearly felt this visceral connection between the two. I know artists are inspired by the natural world and strive to recreate its beauty, but the impact on us is so much more.

The “Earth & Ocean Arts Festival” Sept. 20-22 is a wonderful opportunity to experience for yourself this full immersion in arts and ecology. For schedule highlights and to purchase your event pass, go to cbgallerygroup.com.

Meanwhile, Voices of Earth and Ocean continues with two interviews beginning with Kathleen Sheard, an accomplished glass artist who creates realistic wildlife paintings and sculpture in glass. Her work is found in corporations, private residences, and glass and wildlife galleries throughout the United States.

Eeva:  You have been a glass artist for over 40 years, Kathleen. How did your artistry evolve to include conservation?

Kathleen:  I have been involved with conservation for over 20 of those years. First was with Cheetah Conservation, donating artworks depicting cheetahs, and a bit of African Conservation – particularly, the black rhino. I have worked with pond turtle crews in Oregon, and as of 2008 was working with a sea turtle patrol in Florida.

I would do artwork to donate, and/or give of my time to work with the wildlife organizations and the wildlife directly.

It was the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 that was the turning point of having my individual artwork tell/visually show the stories of the human-caused acts of negligence/intent to do harm. These acts threaten all seven species of sea turtles and other marine life.

I will be moving to Florida in the next year to work more directly with sea turtles, so I can better portray those stories.

Eeva:  I read that you will be creating spiritual reliquaries during the festival. Please tell me more about them and the process involved.

Kathleen:  Spiritual reliquaries are my vessels of living animal spirits. To create the vessels, I first design a kiln-formed glass panel that depicts a wildlife critter, or abstracts of sea turtle silhouettes or animal tracks. These panels/blanks are made with a glass particle called frit and fired in a kiln. An additional layer can be added and fired again, if needed, for more detail.

I then take the kiln-formed blanks to a hot-glass studio and my team, made up of five glass blowers, will do what is called a roll-up: pre-heating the blank, then picking it up on a blow pipe and blowing it out. There are multiple steps to the process.

These vessels will be created on Friday and Sunday. On Saturday, the team will be spinning out my Wildlife Rondelles. Starting with a small round kiln-formed glass piece that I have finished. then the pre-heat, and then adding a wide band of color to surround the inner image. 

Eeva: That all sounds amazing, Kathleen. What is it that drew you to the “Earth & Ocean Arts Festival” to participate as a guest artist at Icefire Glassworks?

Kathleen: Jim Kingwell and Suzanne Kindland have known of my advocacy for sea turtles for at least 10 years. I show my artwork in their gallery and have participated previously in their studio, during a ‘Stormy Weather Festival’ and a ‘Spring Unveiling.’ I am thrilled they asked me to be their featured artist for Cannon Beach's first conservation festival. I hope to have time to meet some of the other artists and conservationists so I can expand my own knowledge. 

And besides....  I can talk about my two favorite passions; glass and sea turtles! Only through education, and telling the stories, and showing by example can we hope to save our wildlife and the land that is our home.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us Kathleen, we look forward to seeing you in September.  Next is Angela Benton, conservationist and chair of The Friends of Haystack Rock.

Eeva:  The Gallery Group and the five nonprofits (North Coast Land Conservancy, Sea Turtles Forever, Wildlife Center of the North Coast, Friends of Haystack Rock, and Friends of Falcon Cove Marine Reserve) joining together for this festival is unprecedented, but really such a natural fit when you consider the relationship between art and the natural world. Please share with us your background, Angela, how you came to Cannon Beach, when you started working in conservation and taking on the responsibility of chairing FOHR.

Angela:  I fell in love with Cannon Beach over 35 years ago. Living in the Midwest and then on the East Coast, Cannon Beach, Haystack Rock and the Marine Gardens were like nothing I had seen before. When my husband and I moved to Oregon three years ago, I was captivated by the education and conservation efforts of many nonprofits, including Friends of Haystack Rock.

With my science background and the heart and spirit of a conservationist, I have worked to be a good steward of the earth in my daily life. Since most of my professional worklife was spent in the corporate world, a personal goal in retirement has been to be directly involved in environmental and conservation-related issues.

That’s when I joined the board of Friends of Haystack Rock. I felt inspired by the people and the mission, and it became my passion. I am fortunate to be part of an amazing team of board members, and to be mentored by our prior board chair, Stacy Benefield.

The mission of FOHR is to promote the preservation and protection of the intertidal life and birds that inhabit the Marine Garden and Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge at Haystack Rock. We are particularly concerned about the precipitous decline of the Tufted Puffin bird population at Haystack Rock and along the Pacific Northwest coast. We support scientific research and efforts to restore the Tufted Puffin population to sustainable levels. While we don’t do the research, we raise funds that support the scientific research and efforts to help Tufted Puffins.

Our focus on the overall health of the ecosystem and the animals, plants and birds that call it home isn’t possible without many partners. We work with the City of Cannon Beach, through their Haystack Rock Awareness Program, to provide support funding for additional staff on the beach, summer camp scholarships and other specific needs. We also work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state parks, Audubon of Portland and others.

Eeva:  You have become very involved with the “Earth & Ocean Arts Festival,” helping to organize the other nonprofits and their activities during that weekend. What inspires you about partnering with the Cannon Beach Gallery Group for this festival, and what do you foresee the impact will be on festival attendees and the community itself?

Angela:  Friends of Haystack Rock is honored to be one of the five environmental nonprofits that will benefit from the festival. The concept of the “Earth & Ocean Arts Festival” has given us an opportunity to showcase our collaborative efforts and link the festival to what we do as non-profits. These organizations collectively weave a beautiful tapestry of impact that spans Earth to Ocean.

I am inspired by the commitment of the Cannon Beach Gallery Group to make the festival such an enriching experience on so many levels. My hope is that festival attendees and community members are inspired by the art and artists, and they are moved to take personal action to be environmental stewards. And are motivated to volunteer and/or support organizations that work to protect and preserve the environment. I am expecting this to be so successful that folks can’t wait for “Earth & Ocean Art Festival” in 2020.

Well said, Angela. Thank you for all you do for the environment. I look forward to us all enjoying this celebration together.

Eeva Lantela is owner of DragonFire Gallery and committee chair for “Earth & Ocean Art Festival.”

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