Saugerties art show raises funds for environmental education

Susan Murphy at least year's event

Susan Murphy at least year’s event

Saugerties, as we who live here know, is home to many treasures, and one of them is having a party this week to which you’re all invited. I’m talking about the fourth annual ARTEsopus event, the Esopus Creek Conservancy’s major fundraiser, this Saturday, November 19, at the SebSi Studio at 252 Main Street starting at 5 p.m.

ECC owns, protects and maintains the Esopus Bend Nature Preserve, the 161-acre property that borders the Esopus Creek above the waterfall below Diamond Mills. The organization and provides education, recreation, and the tranquility of natural beauty to residents and visitors, and helps Scenic Hudson maintain the Falling Waters Preserve along the Hudson in Glasco.

I’m not on the ECC board or in its employ. It’s a community treasure that needs and deserves our support. Here’s why.

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At the top of the list of every board member I contacted was ECC’s collaboration with the Saugerties chapter of the Boys and Girls Club to provide high-quality environmental education to our community’s children. In addition to treating “nature deficit disorder,” this program, taught by Cantine’s Island resident Dorothy Varner, teaches kids how nature works through experiential educational activities.

Varner, a dedicated and creative professional nature educator, chooses what the students show interest in as they spend quality time on the property. Her aim is to develop the student’s sense of wonder, comfort, and curiosity about natural places.

Through the Boys and Girls Club after-school program, she works with students ages eight through eleven from all the Saugerties elementary schools and extends ECC outreach to students eight to thirteen in the summer program. Varner combines sensory activities with art projects and contemplative work. She helps students to be present in the natural surroundings.  Her teaching provides some freedom from frequently overstructured lives. She strongly promotes environmental stewardship and includes service projects in the curriculum.

Environmental stewardship is the inspiration that keeps the all-volunteer board hard at work maintaining the preserve and keeping it safe and open to the public. This costs money, especially when the annual insurance bill comes due.

This important part of the regional watershed suffers from serious erosion issues that need to be addressed. There’s also the seemingly endless work on trails and signage.

Local residents enjoy access for exercise and recreation, either on their own or through the free events scheduled most months to introduce residents and visitors to the natural beauty of our region, often led by stewardship and land management chairman Steve Chorvas. Chorvas provides a wealth of information about the birds, butterflies, amphibians, wildflowers and more to participants of all ages. Other leaders provide expertise on identifying mushrooms and trees, and group kayak paddles give a whole different perspective of this beautiful riparian preserve.

What I especially appreciate about Esopus Creek Conservancy is that it does important environmental preservation work in the most local way possible. A community that supports a group like this has truly understood the value of not relying on corporate support or governmental assistance.

Of course, money from distant places is required for some projects. But far from all. There is so much we can and should do to take care of ourselves and our surroundings.

Although there are appeals for donations throughout the year, especially for maintenance and insurance, the ECC relies on the ARTEsopus event to fund its educational outreach program for schoolchildren and even expand it to include a wider age group. It’s called “100 for 100,” meaning that 100 artists from all over the Hudson Valley (and even from New York City) create works on canvases of identical size, which are sold for $100 each. The artwork, astonishing in its variety, is unsigned. The buyer only finds out who created it after making the purchase and, as an extra bonus, gets to meet the artist. It’s quite possible to take home a painting that would cost far more in the commercial galleries where many of the artists’ work is sold.

You’re sure to take home something you love. There’s something for everybody!

The event itself is a wonderful party. For your $10 admission you get a great spread of hors

d’oeuvres and complimentary wine, not to mention the art show. You’ll have a great time and you’ll be supporting a local treasure. For information on Esopus Creek Conservancy and ARTEsopus 2016, visit their website at www.esopuscreekconservancy.org or their Facebook page.

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