Conservation art fair coming to Nova in Davie

Broward County is about to become more biologically diverse, as 55 art pieces make the city their temporary home.

Starting Saturday, the Alvin Sherman Library Gallery at Nova Southeastern University in Davie will house artwork representing some of the best features of nature: serene landscapes and exotic animals.

The exhibit is being staged by Artists for Conservation, a Vancouver, British Columbia-based nonprofit group founded by artist Jeff Whiting, who wanted to find a way to support wildlife and habitat conservation through art.

AFC members portray nature scenes and, in exchange, the organization promotes the artists’ art through festivals and exhibits. A conservation organization chosen by the artist gets a percentage of the sales.

The Davie show is partially financed by the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, named for the prominent South Florida artist who is member of the AFC.

Tony Fins, the foundation’s executive director, said the show is a smaller version of the AFC’s annual 10-day festival in Vancouver. At last year’s Vancouver event, more than 80 paintings were on display, and 40 percent of the proceeds from art sales went to support conservation.

“We hope we can generate enough community, civic and other business interest out here so we can get support for a full AFC event here next year,” Fins said.

“It’s not just the art, it’s the conservation message, it’s the raising awareness and raising money for these critical conservation projects and programs,” he said.

The exhibit will be free and open to the public until June 16 at NSU, which donated the space for the exhibit and covered some expenses. Close to 1,000 schoolkids are expected to visit the exhibit during field trips. 

Whiting’s father, Bill Whiting, who volunteers as managing director of the organization, said his son has always loved nature.

“He also was an extraordinary artist from an early age,” Whiting said. “So he decided to use his love of nature and his education as a biologist to create this international organization.”

He said the younger Whiting founded AFC 17 years ago.

“There were lots of organizations promoting the arts, but not promoting the natural world,” he said. “That was his impetus for the creation of an organization that is mission-oriented about selling artwork with a purpose.”

Whiting also wanted to create an Internet presence for the member artists “without any technical skills to be able to create their own website,” the elder Whiting said. “The 500 artists that are members — each has their own website that they can individually update.”

One of those artists is Megan Kissinger, who discovered her motivation to become a wildlife artist 20 years ago. Working as a picture framer, she came across one of Jeff Whiting’s paintings depicting an elephant.

“I sat there with this picture by this world-famous artist, and I had the original right there in my hand and I looked at it and I thought, ‘It’s gonna take some work, but this is what I want to do,’ ” she said.

Kissinger continued following Whiting’s work, and a few years ago she applied to become a member of AFC. Now, Kissinger, of Fort Myers, is one of three Florida-based artists who will be featured in the show.

Kissinger says she gathers most of her inspiration from her surroundings, especially the Caloosahatchee River, where she kayaks often and takes photos of birds, trees and the overall environment.

She hopes the exhibit will highlight the importance of the Everglades and of the water supply.

“I hope we get a little bit of a focus from people outside Florida as to the state of our water in Florida,” she said. “The entire state is built on water. It’s the one thing we can’t do without — it’s the life source of Florida.”