Artists for Conservation

Part of Website of Artists for Conservation

There is a group of more than 500 North American artists organized as Artists for Conservation. Some of them promote conservation by donating a portion of their sales proceeds to conservation organizations. Many see their artwork as a direct conservation effort. So, for example, the bird painter Kimberly Beck says, “With my work I hope that you are inspired to do what you can to protect their habitats and ensure their presence for generations to come.” Walt Anderson, wildlife painter, says,  “I want my work to inspire and motivate people to fully appreciate the natural world and work to protect it.” Cincy Billingsley, a painter and sculptor, says,  “Art can make a difference, get people thinking, seeing and hopefully changing ways so that animals can keep and improve their habitats.” There are many others with similar passions.

Concern for wildlife and its habitats is not, however, among the passions that have inspired Jennifer Reed and Jeffrey Madden, creators of the “Opening Circle” public art installation in the northeast corner of Chavez Park. Their website makes no mention of environmental concerns. They talk about creating the genius loci (spirit of the place) and about promoting community, but they don’t see the “place” as habitat for wild things and the “community” they have in mind doesn’t include creatures other than people. It’s this lack of passion for nature that explains the fence around what was once a major winter gathering site for Burrowing Owls. At 32 inches high with gaps of up to 9 inches between cables, the fence may be art but it’s next to useless as security for the wildlife habitat that it encloses. Conservation of nature was not among the thoughts that went into the design.

The City of Berkeley’s Public Arts Subcommittee will be meeting tomorrow (Wednesday Oct. 19) at 2:30 pm on Zoom to take up, among other agenda items, the design of this public art installation. The City has jurisdiction here because the City channeled a major charitable donation to the artists and approved the design back in 2010-2011. For several years I and others have been advocating to have this fence replaced with an effective boundary to keep out loose dogs. Such a fence must be at least four feet high. It’s also urgent to reroute the fence on the southern end so as to allow public access to the Opening Circle seating area (“the Spiral”) year round. If you are free at 2:30 tomorrow and would like to join the discussion, please point your browser to the Zoom meeting at

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One thought on “Artists for Conservation

  • For no nown reason the Civic Arts Commission seems dug in against changing the art install that was designed? to protect the owls but does not protect the owls. At the zoom meeting today one commissioner attacked Martin for suggesting that they didnt care about the owls and making an easily made mistake that they were paid rather than volunteers. The commissioners said the process for changing the fence was complicated and they couldnt pursue that route. They said the Artist had to be contacted. I waited until the end of that part of the meeting and asked whether we meaning the Conservancy could talk to the artist? They said NO WAY that he/she did not want to change the art he created for the owls and i/we couldn’t talk to him/her. They immediately removed me from the meeting! Everything in our BerkeleyGovernment including the Council meetings are still zoom and not hybrid i.e. in person because of cover and not open to the public except by their own descretion and according to what you say. Seems autocratic to me. We need to request a copy of the commission that let this artist build a fence to protect owls that does not protect the owls. We need to see what he was commissioned and paid to do.

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