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A new exhibition offers a stark reminder of the Indian River’s fragile beauty

can art preserve Indian River Land Trust: our landscape? Can Art Preserve

Our Landscape?


A new exhibition offers a stark reminder of the Indian River's fragile beauty.

Can Art Preserve our LANDSCAPE?

by ANN TAYLOR

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f you ask Dick Brickman why he’s so passionate about protecting the natural landscape be prepared to listen and believe. “When my wife and I came to Vero in 1987 a friend got me interested in McKee Botanical Garden and that’s where I learned about the Indian River Land Trust. The energy and spirit that was being built was magnetic and I saw the opportunity to help preserve the Indian River as it is for posterity. That’s what really caught me.” Brickman was also caught by the work of artist John Phillip Osborne. “His early paintings of the Jungle Trail are a perfect example of what can happen over time. When we can see what the Trail looked like before as compared to what it is today, it shows how this whole place can go the way of development. That’s why I think that in one sense art is static. It’s like a snapshot, providing a history of the past. As a landscape architect the

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Three talented landscape artists – Luke Steadman, John Phillip Osborne and Reid Christman – have captured scenes of properties protected by the Indian River Land Trust on canvas. This month, from January 15-29, the Admiralty Gallery will host an exhibition featuring their paintings. “Many people don’t walk the trails, but if they can see images of what is out there it reminds them of what the Land Trust is about … they will be reminded that something valuable can be preserved, not just as a painting, not just as a memory, but in real life for future generations,” says Ann McEvoy, owner of the Gallery.


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3 Luke Steadman, First Light, Spoonbill Marsh, 24"x36"


Luke Steadman, Morning at Spoonbill Marsh, 14"x18". The marsh’s mature trees and foliage provide the perfect nesting opportunites for ospreys and bald eagles who hunt for fish and small mammals in and around a series of ponds.

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Ken Grudens with Ann McEvoy

compelling effort for me has always been to preserve as much as we can while we can. It’s really a race against time.” Ann McEvoy couldn’t agree more. That’s why the owner of Admiralty Gallery sent a note to Bill Beardslee, a member of the Land Trust’s board of directors, expressing her desire to host an exhibition of Vero Beach landscapes, river and ocean scenes showcasing paintings by Osborne, Reid Christman and Luke Steadman, all well-known artists who have been painting the Indian River Lagoon area for decades.

As Ken Grudens, the Trust’s executive director says, McEvoy’s offer was a gift the Trust couldn’t refuse. “Ann’s a long-time supporter who really believes in what we’re doing. I think her idea of a stand-alone exhibition came about because for the last three years running we’ve had an art show attached to our annual benefit at Rock City Gardens. That’s when Ann’s wheels started to turn. Showcasing three of our properties in paintings – the Toni Robinson Luke Steadman, Toni Robinson Trail, 18" x 29"


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John Phillip Osborne, Jungle Trail, 36"x48". Osborne’s earlier painting of the Trail is an example of what has happened over time. “When we can see what the Trail looked like before as compared to what it is today shows how this whole place can go the way of development,” Dick Brickman points out. As an active Land Trust member and landscape architect he adds, “The compelling effort for me has always been to preserve as much as we can while we can. It’s really a race against time.”

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Waterfront Trail, Bee Gum Point and South Vero Conservation Land – is very exciting.” As the familiar adage goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” and no one knows that better than McEvoy. Immediately after being given a green light for the January 15-29 exhibition, she contacted Osborne, Christman and Steadman. “For three days in early November, they were out there on site painting at sunrise, midday and sunset, capturing what they saw and preserving

it on canvas. Reid and Luke even went out on the river in their boats to paint. All of them will be here in the gallery sometime during the first day of the exhibition to talk to the public. My hope is that this will spur a heightened awareness of the important work the Land Trust is performing, and I encourage more people to support it financially,” says McEvoy, who will be donating 20 percent of the proceeds from exhibition sales to the nonprofit organization. “I also hope the paintings will remind

people what this community is about and inspire them to get out, walk the trails that the Trust is blazing and enjoy the natural landscape.” Grudens is hoping the same thing. Since he came on board eight years ago, awareness of and involvement in the Trust has grown. “It’s actually been amazing. When I got here the Land Trust as we know it today had just started. At that time we were a staff of two and a small, passionate board. Since then we’ve expanded the board and have been able to add staff members. Also, we’ve increased our membership – right now we have about 800 individuals and family members and our goal is to grow that number.” Grudens smiles, spreading his hands wide. “The Land Trust’s focus right now is on the three ‘P's’ – to preserve environmentally important land and wildlife habitat, protect scenic waterfront areas of the river from further development, and provide open space for public recreation and education. Much of what draws people to our county is the unspoiled scenic waterfront and opportunities for public access to the Lagoon. Ultimately we’re working toward realizing our vision for keeping the entire Lagoon corridor green, the way we see it today, by expanding our visibility through the eyes of these artists.”

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cEvoy couldn’t have chosen three more gifted individuals. John Phillip Osborne, who describes his paintings as “small moments of nature,” is known for his ability to capture atmospheric changes with an emphasis on how objects are viewed in various degrees of light. Reid Christman’s seascapes and coastal scenes awaken an appreciation for the beauty of our surroundings,


John Phillip Osborne, River Glow, 24"x36". Osborne enjoys spotlighting small moments in nature with a feeling of coming a little closer to the grand scheme of things. Known for his ability to capture luminous light, he is a master at recording specific times of the day, weather conditions and the seasons.

something too often taken for granted. Luke Steadman’s paintings of the Indian River and southern marshes offer a joyous expression of unspoiled nature and the wonderful world we live in. “The artist preserves the landscape in his paintings by capturing a scene that may well change,” McEvoy points out. “There is a long tradition of landscape painting in American art beginning with the rather primitive rendering of the landscape background in some Colonial portraits. The Hudson River School of artists in the mid-19th century had a romantic and idealized view of nature – their paintings reveal a pristine wilderness that was already beginning to be encroached upon by man. “Similarly, paintings of some areas

of the Jungle Trail that artist John Phillip Osborne executed only 12 years ago show a landscape that has now largely disappeared because of development. All three artists are so excited to be part of what we’re doing. The exhibition is a fundraiser, but more than that it’s about awareness and the opportunities to get involved in efforts to preserve what we have.” For Grudens it’s a win-win. “The Land Trust recognizes the connection between art and protecting the landscape. The paintings, which reflect nature, allow people who may not go out on our properties to see the land in a different way, through the eyes of an artist. The Indian River Lagoon and its resources are the backbone of this community.

“There is a large circle of people who are familiar with what the Trust does, but we need to expand our reach, and this exhibition will help,” says Grudens, who adds, “We’ll also be offering public tours of our properties throughout the winter. We have trained volunteer guides who understand the properties; in fact one guide, Rody Johnson, has been walking the Bee Gum property since the 1960s. His children grew up going there and he’ll be hosting tours along with his children and grandchildren. We have another guide who will be holding tours at the Spoonbill Marsh adjoining the Salt March property. The tours are free of charge and available first to members and then the general public. We hope people will come out and see

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Reid Christman, Nearing Pine Island, 11"x14". Many of Christman’s favorite river scenes have been painted while he’s on the water in his boat.

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these properties for themselves.” So does McEvoy, who considers herself fortunate to live on the river where, as she notes, nature comes out to play. “Every day I view an impressive parade of our diverse fish and bird life, starting with the morning fly-out from a nearby rookery and the sweet chirping of our resident osprey as he dissects his first fish of the day. Mullet jump, dolphins play and manatees surface. The river is magnetic  –  people are driven to it,” she says, her eyes bright. Then her mood changes. “Unfortunately, I also see things I know are dangerous for the Lagoon – grass cuttings clogging up a canal or debris

thrown overboard by a lazy boater. We all need to be aware that the river is a living organism and its health should be a prime concern for all who live in and visit Indian River County. “My frustration is that I have neighbors, friends and acquaintances who come to Vero Beach for the environment we live in and enjoy, yet they have forgotten how important it is to protect what we have. The threat the river faces, not only to be visually destroyed but factually destroyed as well, are very real. Yet there is a longing in all of us to go back and enjoy what God created – most of us have in our inner self an innate desire to be connected to nature."

That’s the motivating philosophy that prompted McEvoy to host this month’s benefit exhibition. “Many people don’t walk the trails, but if they can see images of what is out there it reminds them what the Land Trust is about, what this entire community is about. They need to be able to visualize what we’re trying to protect. By seeing the images captured on canvas, people will be reminded that something valuable can be preserved, not just as a painting, not just as a memory, but in real life for future generations.” ` Reid Christman, Moonlight on the River, 16"x20"


Into The Landscape