Art for the Birds

Cynde Randall writes on the Bird x Bird Project, including its origins in a songbird nursery. The annual show is this week at the Northrup King Building in northeast Minneapolis: preview on Thursday evening, Oct. 6, and the silent auction the next day.


“If I had to choose between planes and birds, I’d chose birds”
-Charles Lindbergh

Nearly ten years ago, I discovered a strange and wonderful thing: I experience exactly the same feeling feeding an orphan songbird as I do making art.

The project known as Bird x Bird began with the simple intention of honoring the birds that were patients at a little wildlife rehabilitation clinic on the north side of Minneapolis. For two years I served as one of the coordinators of the clinics songbird nursery, a place where nearly 500 orphaned and injured birds received medical attention and care.

During the spring of 2002, I invited 9 artists (whom I hold in the highest regard) to consider the idea of making a visual record of the avian nursery season. David Lefkowitz, Melba Price, Bruce Tapola, Lee Anne Swanson, Carolyn Swiszcz, Jim Ockuly, Ann Wood, Dean Lucker, and Alexa Horochowski and I had our first conversation in the park across the freeway from the clinic. Together we agreed to take on the challenge of acknowledging each and every avian patient. Through the summer, thirty-four more artists joined the original birders ten. Thanks to Lee Anne Swanson and John Page Corrigan we presented our first exhibition at Radiator Exhibition Company in south Minneapolis at the end of the nesting season. We raised enough money to keep the clinic open through to the following spring. In 2003 the project grew to include 78 participants.

Sadly, the little clinic did not stay afloat, but by the spring of 2004 Bird x Bird had significant momentum. The question was: should the project fold or should the artists find another partner? Strangely, not everyone approached with the idea that 80 artists were game for making art and having an exhibition to raise money for their benefit were interested in the partnership. But Mike Link, Director of Audubon Center of the North Woods, and Mary Lynn Pulscher, director of Environmental Education for Minneapolis Parks, were very interested in the potential for collaborating with the artists. Both Audubon Center and Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary collected data about avian species – and they were happy to share this data with the project artists.

Since 2004 Bird x Bird has posted the avian data from ACNW and EBWG on a website designed by project artist and wildlife biologist Carmen Vaz-Altenberg. Bird x Bird has also honed in on its mission and incorporated as a non-profit entity.
(Bird x Bird is a non-profit organizations that links the collective action of artists to organizations dedicated to the stewardship of avian species and the environmental education of human beings). The project now represents the involvement of roughly 130 artists.

Bird x Bird 2005 will feature work in all media by 85 contemporary artists. Proceeds raised at the 2005 auction on October 7, at Gallery 332 Northrup King Building will support future bird banding and wildlife rehabilitation at ACNW; support bird programming at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary and will provide seed money for Bird by Bird 2006.

It is a beautiful exhibition and I hope that you will make the effort to see it one of the two days that it’s up: preview Thursday October 6 from 5:00-9:00; reception and silent auction on Friday, October 7, from 6:00-9:00. The birds thank you!