Flipping the bird

Yellow Springs Arts Council’s For the Birds

By Tammy Newsom

Photo: “Trashy Bird” by corrine bayraktaroglu; photo provided by artist

In the winter of 2013, eight stir-crazy Village artists met for “Tweet Meets” over coffee to exchange ideas for art projects. Many of those artists are active members of Village Artisans, including Susan Gartner, who, compelled by photographer and multi-media artist Talitha Greene’s raptor photography, brought bird-themed embroidery, Christmas ornaments and pen and ink drawings to share with the group.

“It was a bleak midwinter, January through March, not much color,” Gartner said. “Gray and brown everywhere.” Akin to “yarn bombing,” popularized a few years ago as a type of street or graffiti art, Gartner had put colorful felt birds on benches, trees and yards to spruce up a drab winter. Red, orange, pink and tie-dye stood out in the bare trees.

“I took a photo of it so I could keep track of which homes I had bird-bombed,” Gartner said.

Everyone liked these displays and decided to do a bird workshop to make more. Nancy Mellon, curator and coordinator for the Yellow Springs Art Council (YSAC), and contributing member of Village Artisans wanted to display the birds in an aviary exhibit in the YSAC gallery, but was delayed because her art shows book over a year in advance. So, the artists inspired by yarn bombing, took to the streets of Yellow Springs to “give people the bird.”

“I took this [bird bombing] a little more personal and a little more one-on-one,” Gartner said. “I took a picture of the felt bird and tagged it on Facebook as a way of appreciating people for personal efforts, birthdays or a death in the family.”

As a former member of Village Artisans, Talitha Greene’s fondness for raptors, or birds of prey, is exceptionally well-known. She has dedicated volumes of her photos documenting the eagles, ospreys, hawks, kites, falcons and owls protected and rehabilitated at the Antioch College Glen Helen Outdoor Education Center. 

“I love the woods, and grew up around Glen Helen,” Greene said.

Greene’s dedication to capturing the beauty of these birds at the Raptor Center incited YSAC to step up and not only display the artists’ bird-themed cabal, but to hold a live art auction to raise money for the rehabilitation, education and the care of birds at the Raptor Center.

The Artisans found it a natural evolution to turn the effort on “bird bombs” as well as Greene’s famous raptor photography into a combined benefit show for the Raptor Center, which has just recently completed a $40,000 reconstruction project on the aviaries. Mellon organized the music, food and donated artwork from the Village Artisans, vendors and local art enthusiasts through the YSAC. This free gallery event became a live art auction, orchestrated by auctioneer Terry Fox, of Atomic Fox, with music provided by the blues band Bluzion. Meadowlark restaurant is also supplying bird-shaped cookies and Dino’s Coffee House will be donating and serving iced coffees, all free of charge. As an interactive feature to the show, art supplies will be offered for the public to create birds to take home or display on a whimsical wall designed as a bird cage in the Gallery’s multi-purpose room. Fifty percent of the proceeds from each sale supports the Glen Helen Raptor Center and the remaining fifty percent is given to the donating artist.

Attendees can expect to see wildlife creations from artists, such as enameling artist Pete Mitas, who donated paper bird mobiles and bird prints. Artisan Sue Brezine is expected to recreate “non-realistic” versions of kestrels that populated her front yard.

Mellon has often approached artists to do themed shows at the YSAC gallery. The gallery has hosted monthly art events, runway shows, poetry slams and even theatrical performances. 

“This is not a gallery that functions for the purpose to make money,” Mellon said. “The purpose is for the artist to get exposure and gain experience, which has been the mission of the Art Council for over 60 years.” Even the village police condone the effects of graffiti art on the community, she admitted. 

The Village of Yellow Springs itself is an open gallery,” Mellon said. “There is something about Yellow Springs that pulls in creative people and inventors.”

Today, as many as 200 predatory birds are kept alive in the cages at the Glen Helen Raptor Center through donations, raptor adoptions and program fees. 

The YSAC Raptor Center live auction event will open at 6 p.m. on Friday, June 20 at the Yellow Springs Arts Council, 111 Corry St. in Yellow Springs. The auction begins at 7:30 p.m. Unsold donations will remain on display in the gallery in the weeks following the auction. For more information, please call 937.767.1515 or visit ysartscouncil.org. For more information about Glen Helen, please call 937.769.1902 or visit glenhelen.org.

Reach DCP freelance writer Tammy Newsom at TammyNewsom@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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