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Beaver Tales: A celebration of beaver art

By Katharine de Baun
"Beaver Tales Environmental Art and Science"

How many ways can you “see” a beaver? The possibilities are endless at the upcoming February exhibit “Beaver Tales Environmental Art and Science,” which will feature more than 150 artists’ renderings of OSU’s beloved mascot--in painting, sculpture, photographs, and beyond–as well as interdisciplinary presentations of the beaver’s uniqueness through scientific, environmental and/or historical lenses.

The exhibit, coordinated in collaboration with The Wetlands Conservancy and others, is part of Oregon State University's yearlong SPARK celebration exploring the interplay between the arts and science and elevating the relationship between them. The College of Science is a proud sponsor of SPARK and home to many artists as well as scientists.

The artwork will be on display during the month of February in the Giustina Gallery at the LaSells Stewart Conference Center, with an opening “Meet the Artists” reception with posters and presentations February 9, 2017, from 6-8:00 p.m.

Canadian freelance journalist and the author Frances Backhouse will present a talk at 6:30 p.m. in the Agriculture Room at LaSells Stewart Center followed by a book signing. Backhouse has written six nonfiction books, including her most recent, Once They Were Hats: In Search of the Mighty Beaver, which was heralded by The Globe and Mail as one of the “20 books you’ll be reading – and talking about – for the rest of the year” and selected as one of the National Post’s Top 99 Books for 2015. Her previous book, Children of the Klondike, won the 2010 City of Victoria Butler Book Prize. Frances also teaches in the Department of Writing at the University of Victoria in Canada.

The beaver, our beloved state animal and OSU mascot, is woefully misunderstood and blamed for dam building, flooding and munching on plants. In fact, the Oregon beaver, nearly exterminated by trappers by 1900, create wetlands, spawning and rearing habitat for salmon and steelhead, habitat for insects, birds and amphibians and creates pools that keep water clean and moderate fluctuations in water flow, according to the Wetlands Conservancy website. They are nature’s hydrologists.

The objective of the exhibit is to highlight the aesthetic, ecological, and cultural significance of beaver. The beaver is increasingly recognized for its positive contribution to the creation and maintenance of wetland habitat.

Both the exhibit and the reception are free and open to the public. All of the artist’s works will be for sale, too, so if you have a spot on your wall that needs filling, consider a beaver! A percentage of all sales will benefit The Wetlands Conservancy and their partners.

Much of the artwork uses images that depict beaver and wetland habitat, stream habitat that is clearly modified by beaver activities –with dams, lodges, chewed trees, and more. The media include photographs, paintings, carvings, sculpture, mixed media, ceramics, glass, fiber art, prints, cards, and other materials. The styles range from realistic and abstract to whimsical.

After February, the exhibit will travel to five other venues throughout the state, including Lake Oswego, Seaside, Astoria, and North County Regional District, and will finish up at the Oregon Zoo in September 2017.

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