This year marks the centennial anniversary of the convention that led to Canada’s passage of the Migratory Bird Convention Act. To commemorate this achievement, the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) commissioned Mount Allison fine arts students to create representations of species protected under the act.

The collaboration is the first between the CWS and Mt. A’s fine arts program, and hopefully will not be the last. “Let’s try to do something that will produce a legacy,” said Garry Donaldson, manager of the CWS, when asked why he decided to engage fine arts students.

“We’re learning that providing the facts, which is what we always do, doesn’t make people change their minds…The key motivator for people is to evoke an emotional response. And what better way to do it than through art?”

Hilary Drake, a graduate of Mt. A’s psychology and fine arts programs, contributed to the exhibition.

“Through [art] you don’t need the term ‘habitat destruction;’ you get the emotion through the art,” Drake said.

“Let’s try to do something that will produce a legacy.”

 In Drake’s piece, embroidered feathers trace twelve flight routes over fabric earth backdrops. To produce the earth’s blue, she used a method called cyanotyping, a dye technique originally used by ecologists in the 19th century.

Border Crossing. Sylvan Hamburger/submitted
Border Crossing. Sylvan Hamburger/submitted

“I’m really interested in combining science and art. The process [of cyanotyping] was developed in science as a way to replicate samples, and ecologists used it,” Drake said. “I wanted to link the technique I used back to its history.”

Fine arts graduate Corryn Bamber depicted the impressive migrational distance of the arctic loon by juxtaposing three fabrics as the backdrop to her piece.

“The loon spreads across all three [fabrics] because for part of the year it’s inland in the arctic, and then the shore for a short period, and then on the ocean,” she said.

Sara Camus, fourth-year fine arts student, embroidered a male hairy woodpecker nestled among branches, appearing at ease within his own niche.

“There is something serene about it. The bird is simply resting on a branch and it seems like it’s in its place. There’s no disruption of that,” she said. The wooden hoop frame preserves the bird’s peaceful isolation, like a physical embodiment of the Act.

“For the Birds” opens Sept. 14 at Sackville’s CWS, and is also named by Heritage Canada as one of 150 community events to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary.

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ll art pieces will be on display at the CWS for a temporary period, and then migrate to the Purdy Crawford Arts Centre for homecoming weekend, Sept. 30 – Oct. 1.

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