Art and the Environment

by Andrea Bennett

Children are especially adept at conveying their interests – like SCUBA diving – through their artwork.

Children are especially adept at conveying their interests – like SCUBA diving – through their artwork.

People often express how they feel about our environment through many art forms such as photography, sculpture, and painting. In the past, landscape artists in the mid-Atlantic region focused on painting historical events such as the famous painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware River in 1776. As our cultures changed, so did the subjects of our paintings and eventually painters began portraying the environment as it is without an important historical event in the center.

Different groups of painters used techniques that reflected their geographical areas such as the Hudson River School landscape painters and the Impressionists in Europe. Here in the mid-Atlantic there is a new group – the Potomac River School. Recently these painters had a group show and most of the paintings were of the Potomac River and its tributaries.

The Washington Society of Landscape Painters, an art organization founded in 1913, sponsored the show titled, “Images of Washington, DC, 2014.” While the group only admitted male painters until 1993, this recent show, featuring the works of many women artists, demonstrates that women are actively capturing the beauty of the Potomac River today.

Children are especially adept at capturing what they see in the environment and many organizations are aware of the interest children have in re-creating what they see, and hold contests to encourage their artistic talents. This year the National Park Service sponsored a youth art contest and April art exhibition to showcase the beauty of Appalachia’s parks and wildlife and to help foster environmental protection in the New River Gorge area of West Virginia.

The City of Virginia Beach and the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary are also examples of mid-Atlantic organizations that sponsor contests to help artists – children and adults – show how they enjoy their local watershed and the natural environment around them.

Recently, more people have begun to create art that is part of or protects the environment. One local high school created a decorative sculpture out of bottle caps because they couldn’t find a place that could recycle them.

The Maryland Department of the Environment also sponsors an annual “Rethink Recycling” Sculpture Contest. One recent winner created a sculpture named “Meeko the Dolphin,” made out of discarded styrofoam, soda cans and water bottles!

Whether you’re living, working or vacationing here, the mid-Atlantic region, from the Shenandoah River in Virginia to the New River in West Virginia, is full of great places to visit and capture with a photo or a drawing!


About the Author: Andrea Bennett is a biologist with EPA. Andrea enjoys birding, kayaking and playing the mandolin and she is a member of her local watershed protection team.




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