SAVE plans fall art exhibit to publicize area’s fragile salt marsh
By Mark E. Vogler
Residents who live in East Saugus love to walk their dogs along the trails of Rumney Marsh. The beauty of the fragile salt marsh also draws bird watchers, nature lovers, people interested in fishing or boating, hikers, joggers and bicyclists on any given day.
But local artist Kelly Slater considers Rumney Marsh a hidden jewel that few Saugus residents have gotten to know or experience. “I think a lot of local people are not quite sure what Rumney Marsh is and how to get to it,” said Slater, who is also a long-time member of the Saugus Action Volunteers for the Environment (SAVE).
“Also, I think a lot of people just don’t know how beautiful it is,” she said.
Slater, influenced by her artistic and environmental background, came up with an idea to improve community awareness of the wildlife and conservation area that’s been designated as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). Why not have an art exhibit that would focus exclusively on the beauty and environmental fragility of the marsh?
“Since I am an artist and I love to paint Rumney Marsh, I just felt that with our interest in conserving Rumney Marsh, that this was a no-brainer,” Slater told The Saugus Advocate this week.
So, SAVE this week issued an announcement calling for art to be displayed at its first annual Rumney Marsh art exhibition – titled “ACEC: Rumney Marsh” – to be held from Sept. 22-29 at the Marleah Elizabeth Graves (MEG) Center (54-58 Essex St., Saugus). The exhibit will feature art in any medium and will be open to all artists, 18 and older, who meet the contest criteria.
“This is not about artistic execution so much as it is about getting out to enjoy the beauty of the marsh and appreciate whatever it offers as a vital natural resource,” Slater said.
“We hope our exhibit will help people realize what a great resource the marsh is and put a positive focus on this somewhat overlooked area … We’re hoping for people of all artistic activities to get out there and enjoy it and submit their work – even people who have never painted before,” she said.
Slater is confident the MEG Building has more than enough space to house a week-long showing of Rumney Marsh–themed art. She’s hoping that more than 50 exhibitors will answer SAVE’s call for entries and that there will be enough artwork to fill up two rooms at the MEG Building.
Art exhibit rules released
All artists 18 years of age or older who meet the specifications for submission may exhibit only one piece of art. Gift cards will be awarded to first-, second- and third-place winners. In addition, Artist & Craftsman Supply of 751 Broadway, Saugus, has agreed to donate art materials awards that will be given by to three honorable mention recipients, according to Slater.
The opening reception and awards ceremony for “ACEC: Rumney Marsh” is set for Saturday, Sept. 22, from 5:30–7:30 p.m. The gallery hours for the art exhibit will be from 5:30–7:30 each evening.
Any three-dimensional works must be self-supporting and no larger than 1′ x 1′ x 1′. Works on stretched canvas will be accepted with eye hooks and wire and need not be framed but must be no larger than 30″ x 30″. All other works must be framed and ready to hang (with eye hooks and wire) and no larger than 30″ x 30″ framed.
Art drop-off will be on Friday, Sept. 21, from 5:30–7:30 pm. Pickup will be on Sunday, Sept. 30 from 5:30–7:30 p.m. At the time of drop-off, each participating artist must fill out an information form (with artist name, price, title of the piece, medium and contact information). In addition, artists must sign a release form acknowledging that while every effort will be made to protect artworks, there will be no insurance coverage in event of damage or theft and that neither SAVE nor MEG will be held liable for any damages or theft.
Saugus SAVE board members and their family members may exhibit, but will be ineligible for any prizes. Finally, any sales must be handled by individual artists after the close of the exhibit.
Painting at the marsh
If Slater has her way, the marsh will one day be the site for an artists’ painting party, where a large group of people show up with their paints, easels, brushes and other art supplies to produce their works.
Slater and her husband, John B. Wilkinson, have lived in Saugus for 21 years. He’s an engineer and she’s a self-employed gardener.
Initially, her career was as a conservationist and environmentalist. Slater worked in the Plant Conservation Program of the New England Wildflower Society. She previously worked in the state Division of Fisheries & Wildlife’s Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program.
From this knowledge and experience, she has developed another career as an artist. Her artwork includes painting Rumney Marsh. Her website describes her as “a self-taught artist who specializes in intensely colored abstracts and figurative abstracts – in both oils and water-based media.”
“Recent concentrations are figurative abstracts of landscapes, plants and flowers in watercolor, brush and ink, and painterly monotype. Her artistic inspirations include the works of Rothko, Matisse, Hockney, Nolde, Frankenthaler, Van Gogh and Seraphine de Senlis,” it continues.
Slater and SAVE share a goal of educating and informing the general public about Rumney Marsh through the art exhibit. “It’s well known that salt marshes like Rumney Marsh provide many environmental benefits – from serving as habitat for wildlife and a base for both marine and terrestrial food chains to reducing flooding and coastal erosion and helping to keep water clean through filtering runoff,” Slater said.
“But marshes are also areas of exquisite natural beauty, which change throughout the year and even throughout the course of a single day. We hope our call for art will prompt people to get out and witness firsthand the beauty of our own local marsh. In addition, we believe that by both experiencing and depicting Rumney Marsh, people will understand why it has been designated as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” she said.
“One of SAVE’s priorities has always been to promote a better quality of life in Saugus and around the world through environmental concern and action – including working to conserve environmentally sensitive land and open space, such as wetlands. Years ago the value of marshes and estuaries really wasn’t appreciated, leading to the placement of landfills and incinerators in these ecosystems,” she said.
“As a result of these attitudes, the town of Saugus has the unfortunate distinction of being the only community in Massachusetts with both a landfill and trash incinerator in their town. By calling for and exhibiting artistic interpretations of Rumney Marsh, we want to shine a light on this valuable resource – and to inspire the public to help cherish and conserve it. In fact, we hope that people will consider submitting art even if they have never made artwork before! We want to encourage everyone to get out in nature, to create art in and about nature, and to show their depictions of Rumney Marsh at our September exhibition.”
How to get there
The Rumney Marsh Reservation is a state park, encompassing more than 600 acres in Saugus and Revere, which is managed by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). Located within the Saugus/Pines River estuary, it provides habitat for numerous types of migratory birds and marine life.
Locally, the Ballard Street salt marshes encompass about 54 acres and are located within the 2,363-acre Rumney Marsh system in the North Coastal Watershed of Massachusetts. The East Saugus marshes are bordered by Eastern Avenue on the west, Ballard Street on the north, Salem Turnpike (Route 107) on the east and the abandoned Bristow Street right-of-way on the south.
The two favorite public access points to the Saugus portion of the Rumney Marsh are on Ballard Street across from Harold Vitale Memorial Park, and off of Eastern Street behind the Italian American Parking Lot.
For more details about SAVE’s first annual Rumney Marsh art exhibition (ACEC: Rumney Marsh), email Kelly Slater (email@example.com) or call her at 781-231-6864.