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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Saving Species with Art

Last year’s grand prize winner, Southern Sea Otter by Amy Feng.
Last year’s grand prize winner, Southern Sea Otter by Amy Feng.

Today, we are announcing the 2015 Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest, which invites  school children to put their creative skills to work for wildlife. This story about the young woman who created the trophy for the contest is adapted from the original, which appeared in the fall 2013 edition of Fish & Wildlife News.

Artist Meredith Graf puts talent to work for conservation

Each year thousands of young students descend on the nation’s capital to visit the monuments and museums, and learn how their government works. In 2009, among those thousands was an eighth-grader from New Orleans, Louisiana, who came to town intent on helping endangered wildlife through the use of her artistic talent. Since that visit, her singular efforts have proved a giant boost to educational efforts for endangered species.  

Graf art
The Devil’s Hole pupfish and Puerto Rican parrot represent ESA success in preventing extinction; the black-footed ferret and the karner blue butterflies represent the success of improving and stabilizing populations; and the American alligator and gray wolves represent those species who made a full recovery under the ESA. ILLUSTRATION: MEREDITH GRAF

Meredith Graff has more than realized her desire to help wildlife. Since that brief visit to Washington, she has been helping to promote and expand the national youth art contest associated with the annual celebration of Endangered Species Day.  The contest is a cooperative effort involving the Service, the Endangered Species Coalition, the International Child Art Foundation and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.   

The story actually begins locally at the Service’s Ecological Services field office in Louisiana where Meredith first inquired about how she might help the cause of wildlife conservation.  Debra Fuller responded to her questions and thoughtfully provided some suggested contacts for her upcoming trip to Washington, DC.

Upon arrival in Washington, she started at the top with a call to then-head of the Endangered Species Program Bryan Arroyo, who referred her to staff members Gloria Bell and Claire Cassel. The result was an impromptu meeting on a park bench one afternoon in front of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. Meredith wanted to get involved with the art contest and help promote it using her artistic talent.  The possibility of a poster was considered, but Meredith says she felt like doing more and ended up designing and crafting a sculptured bald eagle trophy annually engraved with the name of that year’s art contest winner.  This is particularly impressive because she had never done any sculpting, but she enlisted the help of a famous local sculptor, James Vella, to instruct and assist with the ambitious project.

Meredith, who won the 2004 Louisiana Junior Duck Stamp Contest, says she has always felt strongly about helping wildlife.  Indeed, her great-grandfather, Thomas “Mac” McAmis, was a major voice for wildlife management and conservation in the Southeast for nearly 20 years as head of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. He went to work for the commission in 1941 and served as its director from 1945 until his death in 1956. Along the way he also served as chairman of the National Waterfowl Council and the Mississippi Flyway Council.

Meredith’s artistic and community efforts have not been restricted solely to wildlife. Diagnosed as a second-grader with ADHD, she has also been highlighted as a role model by the Attention Deficit Disorder Association, has been a guest at the White House. Her efforts have also been recognized through a resolution passed by Louisiana State Legislature. 

Craig Rieben, External Affairs, Headquarters

Meredith has done an extraordinary job of creating beautiful images that capture the wonder of these endangered animals while at the same time informing the public of dangers to their survival. I hope that others equally concerned about their future will tell others about this site.
# Posted By Gloria K. Hovde | 2/4/15 2:50 PM
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