Bar-tailed godwits in flight
Bar-tailed godwit, the much-travelled migrant that inspired an art-driven rescue. Photo ©Tony Neilson

An art-driven rescue effort inspired by the godwit

The plight of the fastest declining group of birds in Australia – and in many other countries – is at the heart of an important international art initiative.

The Flyway Print Exchange and its spin-off The Overwintering Project were created by printmaker and former Birdlife Australia staffer Kate Gorringe-Smith to draw attention to the threatened migratory shorebirds.

Initially inspired by the bar-tailed godwit, which flies further in its lifetime than from Earth to the Moon, Kate is behind a movement using contemporary and traditional print media  to tell the shorebird story as it relates to the East Asian-Australasian Flyway.

Unique migration

Twenty artists from nine of the 23 countries along the flyway have made and exchanged original prints inspired by the unique migration route of the region. The collection has been exhibited a number of times, with more planned.

Meanwhile, Kate’s new ‘Overwintering’ project gathers pace. “The goal is to link artists with their local migratory shorebird habitat – and each other. The focus is the preciousness of this land we call home and the environment that connects us.”

Linocut print of rednecked stints
‘Spotting Stints’ by Karen Neal, 2017. Linocut.
Linocut print of terek sandpipers
‘Tereks Sandpiping’ by Sarah Mitchell, 2018. Linocut with gold gouache.

Printmakers invited

Working to the theme ‘Mapping Sanctuary’, printmakers are invited to contribute one print created in response to the unique nature of their local environment.

“In pondering how their local habitat is precious to shorebirds, artists are also invited to reveal how it is precious to them,” she says. “Migratory shorebirds provide the focus for the project, but artists can respond to any aspect that they perceive as rendering the area unique – such as the geology, prey species, tidal patterns, flora and other local native fauna.

A project about home

“It is a project about home, our unique environment and the migratory shorebirds that spend the greatest part of their year here on the shores of Australia and New Zealand.”

Between the two countries, there are more than 100 internationally important shorebird overwintering sites. “They are not interchangeable: they each possess a unique combination of physical and biological features that make it the perfect sanctuary for migratory shorebirds to return to, year after year.”

Getting involved

Kate says anyone in Australia or New Zealand can participate. “Printmakers can join directly by contributing a print to the Overwintering portfolio, but artists of any kind, plus schools and organisations, can organise their own exhibitions and I will document it on the website and Facebook page.

“The idea is that by having an overarching title for artistic and cultural events that celebrate and raise awareness for migratory shorebirds and their habitat, the project will gradually gain visibility, which will in turn help create a national picture of where habitat exists and how precious it is.”

Kate Gorringe-Smith portrait
Kate Gorringe-Smith, the Australian printmaker driving the shorebird awareness initiative.

A personal response

The prints will become part of a unique folio representing an in-depth personal response to “our unique coast and the sites that our migratory shorebirds depend on in order to survive”. A permanent home for the folio in a state or national collection will be sought.

Coming events include:

6-9 September 2018 – ‘The Overwintering Project: Bound for Botany Bay’, Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and Art Centre, Broadhurst Gallery, Gymea NSW

24 Sept. – 21 Oct. 2018 – F Project Gallery, Timor Street, Warrnambool

18 Oct. – Nov. 10 2018 – ‘The Overwintering Project: Mapping Sanctuary’, featuring the Overwintering Project print portfolio, Moonah Arts Centre, Hobart

8 Nov. – 31 Dec. 2018 – ‘The Overwintering Project: Mapping Sanctuary’, featuring the Overwintering Project print portfolio, Wyndham Art Gallery,177 Watton Street, Werribee

22 Nov. – 18 January 2019 – Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery

Contacts: email for a project description, or go to the website.

Natural Images© 2018


©2018 TONY NEILSON All Rights Reserved. All images are protected by Australian copyright law and cannot be downloaded or reproduced without my permission. Please contact me.


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