I grew up surrounded by artists for nature, as my father is one, and his fellow artist friends and mentors were aunts and uncles to me in childhood. These artist family friends came into our lives when my dad was starting his art career and seeking the advice of his heroes of the nature art world. These artists were mostly older than he was, often childless, and they welcomed my dad and mom--and later my twin sister and I--into their lives.
One such pair was Don and Virginia Eckelberry, a power couple in the world of birds in art. Don was a well known field guide illustrator when my father sought him out in the mid-1960s, driving all the way from Seattle, Washington state to Babylon, New York, where Don and Ginnie lived in a converted carriage house (formerly part of a larger estate since divided up and whose main house was sadly demolished).
To say that Don and Ginnie lived in style is putting it mildly: They exuded style in everything they did, whether it was the artwork they both produced (Ginnie painted floral and plant images for the textile market), their sartorial flair in field or at home, their beautiful home laden with art and books, the lavish meals Ginnie prepared and their gift for gab (they loved to entertain). Their style was one of great inclusion and generosity; they loved mentoring other artists and assumed new friendships would be the result.
Before Don passed away in 2001, he and Ginnie established a fellowship endowment to continue the work they had done while alive, if only monetarily: promote and support the work of emerging artists for nature. The result is the Eckelberry Fellowship, which has awarded a grant to an artist for nature nearly every year since its inception, including an artist featured on this blog, Alex Warnick!
This year, I joined the Fellowship committee, jumping in to help market the fellowship to new audiences on Instagram. The committee is made up of FOEs (friends of the Eckelberrys) like myself, most of whom are professionally involved in the arts, academia or ornithology. All of us are dedicated to supporting emerging artists for nature. I'm thrilled to be a part of such a dynamic group of folks, and to be supporting artists working to bring nature and its reverence to a wider audience.
You can read more about the fellowship here, as well as enjoy a few more images of Ginnie and Don, and some of their artwork below.