Exhibit, lecture for the birds

Published 8:59 pm Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Birding and wildlife enthusiasts will have as much fun Friday as they can while sitting in an air-conditioned building.

In conjunction with the birding festival at the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts is presenting a lecture on the life of John James Audubon and how his work has influenced conservation efforts and education.

The lecture also connects to the current exhibit in the center’s galleries, “Fields and Forests, Waterways and Wetlands,” which includes prints of work by Audubon, the carved decoy collection of Tommy O’Connor and works by Paul Fisher.

The lecture, “John James Audubon: The Man and His Conservation Legacy,” will feature a biography of Audubon, his professional development as an artist and his conservation work, and also educate listeners about how his legacy lives on today in conservation work, particularly through the Virginia Important Bird Areas program.

The lecturers will be Mary Elfner, Virginia Important Bird Area coordinator, and Andrew Dolby, an associate professor of biological sciences at the University of Mary Washington and the vice president of the Virginia Society of Ornithology.

“These are two very, very knowledgeable people, and we’re very lucky to have them,” Suffolk Center executive director Paul Lasakow said.

John James Audubon, 1785-1851, was the seminal wildlife artist for the fledgling country of America. Though he had no role in the organization that now bears his name, one of the founders, George Grinnell, was tutored by Audubon’s widow and therefore knew of his reputation and chose his name for the organization.

Today, the National Audubon Society champions birds and other wildlife, including the preservation of their habitat. There are six active chapters in Virginia, representing more than 9,500 members.

While at the center, birding enthusiasts also will be able to view the gallery exhibits featuring prints of Audubon’s works, O’Connor’s carved decoys and wildlife artist Paul Fisher’s work.

The Audubon prints and Fisher paintings are up for sale, with proceeds from the Audubon works jointly benefiting the National Audubon Society and the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts.

“It’s been amazing,” Paul Lasakow said. “They’ve been selling like hotcakes. I really think it’s one of the best things we’ve done in terms of gallery exhibitions.”

Lasakow said the center’s gallery partners from the Suffolk Museum have done a wonderful job with the exhibit.

“The folks at the Suffolk Museum have outdone themselves on this one,” Lasakow said.

The Friday lecture, which is free and open to the public, begins at 5 p.m. at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts, 110 W. Finney Ave. Other than during the lecture, the gallery exhibits are open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. through May 22.

For more information, call 923-0003 or visit www.SuffolkCenter.org.