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Turkish Sweetgum Project SWLA/DKM Artist Residency: July 2016

In February of this year I was asked to co-ordinate the Turkish Sweetgum Project. It had been in development for the past few years and through the determination of the conservation NGO in Turkey, Doğa Koruma Merkezi (DKM), and the dedication of Harriet Mead and Bruce Pearson it was finally a reality – the EU funding had been granted! The aims of the project were: to build cultural bridges through art and nature; to promote and increase the capacity for wildlife art as a tool for conservation in Turkey; and to raise awareness of the increasingly rare patches of endemic sweetgum forests (Liquidambar orientalis). It had great potential to realise the SWLA’s ambitions of combining creativity, conservation and education, and it would build on our experiences of successful projects such as ‘Drawn to the Forest’ and ‘Aig an Oir’. Excited about the opportunity to contribute to the development of the SWLA’s role in celebrating and protecting the natural world I was determined that the project was to be a success. In April I travelled to Köyceğiz (the project area) where I joined the DKM team: Hatice Dinç Sarısoy, Aydan Özkil and Dr. Okan Ürker. Hatice had driven the project to this point, Aydan was now managing the project and Okan, an expert on the Oriental sweetgum tree and surrounding ecosystems, was to be our guide. This visit was packed with planning the project objectives and developing a schedule for the ‘Artist week’, which would involve a team of SWLA artists working with a group of art students, artists and scientists from Turkey. We made site visits (which included a close encounter with an Ottoman viper) and met with the provinces’ dignitaries to promote the project. My role was to plan and develop the ‘Artist week’ and, from an open submission, select an SWLA team that could deliver a programme of field trips, talks, tuition and mentoring. The ‘Artist week’ in June was a huge success. Ben Woodhams, Greg Poole, Esther Tyson and myself comprised the SWLA artists and there were 25 Turkish participants. The Flora Hotel provided a perfect base for us and we could not have wished for a better location or host in hotel owner Alp Giray who went out of his way to facilitate us. On the first day each participant was given information about the project and a carefully selected pack of art materials and equipment for the week. The SWLA and DKM teams set out the aims of the project and what was required to make it a success. Students were asked to make first-hand observations of the forest, to make focused investigations and build their knowledge of the subject. They were encouraged to share and discuss their work, to explore ideas and materials.

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Profile for Mall Galleries

The Natural Eye 2016  

The Society of Wildlife Artists Annual Exhibition celebrates the natural world in all its guises through drawing, printmaking, painting and...

The Natural Eye 2016  

The Society of Wildlife Artists Annual Exhibition celebrates the natural world in all its guises through drawing, printmaking, painting and...

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