What we love, we take care of.
If that’s true — and we believe it is — the challenge facing each of us is how to love, and thereby take care of, the people, places and things we don’t happen to know personally.
If you’ve never been to Maine’s North Woods and heard the cry of the loon at dusk, you might not care enough to advocate on behalf of these ancient birds when the human intrusions of motorboats and shoreside development threaten their nesting habitats. Likewise, it might be hard to get too upset about “light pollution” if you’ve never experienced the awe-inspiring plenitude of stars on a clear night while standing on the shore of one of our great northern ponds.
Lucky for us that we’ve got poets and painters, musicians and singers, photographers and wildlife biologists with a gift of storytelling, hunters and anglers, all sharing their love for Maine’s special places with those of us who might never get to see firsthand what makes them so special. Their love can be infectious, inspiring us to love and protect people, places and things that we’ve never experienced directly ourselves.
We applaud, then, the Natural Resources Council of Maine’s selection of West Bath artist Evelyn Dunphy as this year’s “People’s Choice Award Winner.” It’s an inspired choice, one that calls attention to the role artists of all mediums have played in mobilizing public support for preserving Maine’s unique beauty and qualities.
The award is bestowed each year to an individual or group whose actions have made a real difference in the protection of Maine’s environment. As its name implies, recipients are nominated by fellow Mainers. In Dunphy’s case, she emerged from dozens of nominations that had been submitted to become one of five finalists. Votes poured in, in record numbers, from as far away as Australia and Dunphy was selected as this year’s winner.
“Evelyn is unique among our award winners because she is not only a strong activist, she is also a celebrated artist,” says Brownie Carson, executive director of NRCM. “We are fortunate that Evelyn has decided to use her talent as an artist to highlight the beauty and special qualities of Maine’s wilderness areas. In doing so, not only does she help bring awareness of these natural treasures and our need to protect them, but she also shows us, with her artist’s eye, why we must.”
In particular, Dunphy’s supporters noted how much her artistic advocacy made a difference for one issue in particular — the preservation of Katahdin Lake.
Here’s just one of the tributes paid to her artistry in capturing the beauty of that remarkable northern lake: “I can say without hesitation that Evelyn is a remarkable human being who served as a bridge between the artist community and the land conservation community. Her heart, commitment, and creativity were the critical ingredient to the successful completion of that campaign and Maine is indeed lucky to have her as an artistic ambassador of land conservation.”
On her Web site, Dunphy generously shares so many of her spectacular paintings of Katahdin Lake, Katahdin and other scenes from Baxter State Park. Her paintings offer unimpeachable evidence of her deep love for these places.
Yes, countless others were involved in crafting the innovative agreement among landowners, state agencies, and wilderness advocates led to acquisition of 4,000 acres around Katahdin Lake, including the last remaining parcel in Gov. Percival Baxter’s vision for Baxter State Park.
But, as NRCM’s People’s Choice Award recognizes, we should never underestimate the power of art that originates out of love to move others toward having a similar frame of mind as the artist who made it. The history of safeguarding Maine’s environment is replete with examples of artists like Evelyn Dunphy, who teach us how to see and love and care for the beauty that surrounds us.