Miami County nonprofit pairs art with conservation

·2 min read

Jul. 6—CONVERSE — A project spearheaded by an Amboy artist to paint waterways around the state as a way to promote river conservation has received a $4,000 grant from the Indiana Arts Commission.

Art Nature Consortium, a nonprofit based in Miami County that includes five painters and three writers, received the funding last month.

The conservation project is using 100 paintings, essays and community presentations as a way to inform the public about the need to preserve and restore the 65,000 miles of Indiana waterways.

Avon Waters, CEO of the nonprofit who has a studio and art gallery in Amboy, said the project started out with a simple artistic vision to paint rivers and streams, but has since evolved into something much larger that none of them expected.

Waters said he and the four other artists first had the idea for the project during a cookout in August 2020, during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Many of their normal group activities had been canceled, so they committed to paint Indiana waterways for 18 months and then create a touring exhibition.

"Pretty early on, we discovered how interested others were in what we were doing," Waters said in a release.

Since then, the project has added three conservation essayists and a 200-page book to accompany the traveling exhibitions, which will start at the Indiana State Museum in October 2022. The exhibition will end in December 2023 at the Hoosier Salon in New Harmony.

During that time, writers and artists will be giving free public discussions on art and conservation as part of the grant from the Indiana Arts Commission.

"This is a way to broaden the impact of the project," Waters said. "We will be presenting at libraries in rural and urban areas and showing how anyone interested in the beauty of our rivers and streams can become involved."

Other funding sources for the $45,000 project include the Indiana Division of the Izaak Walton League of America, the Indiana Humanities Council and individual donations ranging from $20 to $750.

John Kelty, a watercolor artist and member of the nonprofit, said the group continues to receive individual donations, many of which come from other artists who believe in the message and vision of the project.