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It’s not going to be a normal art exhibit opening. I’ve alluded to it in a couple of my blogs, but I haven’t revealed much about the details of my upcoming exhibit Bison, Bison, Bison. Here’s what I can tell you.

In May I approached the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge* about exhibiting my bison paintings at their Prairie Learning Center. This was the first time I’ve pitched an exhibit before I’ve created the paintings. I met with the staff member who was in charge of the learning center’s exhibit area and I was accepted!

She said it wasn’t a requirement, but they respectfully ask that a percentage of any art sales be donated to a non-profit group named The Friends of the Prairie Learning Center**. Not a problem I said, then I asked her if the Friends had an annual celebration or fundraiser. (I was interested in scheduling the opening night of the exhibit to correspond with this event – thinking more people would attend the opening.) I found out they do not have an annual fundraiser. Hmmm. She said they would be interested in any suggestions and I said I would think about it.

Fortunately, I had recently tried to buy tickets for an event in Kansas that featured an orchestra playing out on the open prairie but the event was sold out. I thought, “Why can’t we have an event like that here?” So I called the Des Moines Community Orchestra. After some introduction, I asked, “Would you consider performing a concert on the open prairie?” I’m so thankful they said yes! So, I drafted a three page proposal with a vision, a mission and a goal.

I emailed the Friends president and was added to the agenda of their next board meeting. I pitched the idea to their board of directors and they approved it. In fact, I was told they had been searching for an idea like this for years. I notified the Des Moines Community Orchestra and suddenly I had a really cool opening night that was going to greatly benefit an organization that I want to support.

PrintThe event is called Concert on the Prairie. All proceeds from ticket sales, donations, new memberships and a portion of the proceeds from the sale of art during the exhibit, go toward the purchase of new educational displays in the Prairie Learning Center. The original displays, now over 20 years old, have seen thousands of school field trips.

The only bad news: due to the fact that parking space at the refuge is limited we are only able to sell 250 tickets to the event. We’ve debated a shuttle system but decided for the inaugural event we were going to keep it small. Our committee has been meeting monthly since June to work out the many details. As soon as all the details are final and approved, you’ll will be the first to know how and when to purchase tickets.

Thanks for your support, and I’ll continue to keep you updated.

* The Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge is 5,563 acres of reconstructed prairie. Refuge staff, interns and volunteers work with conservation biologists, schools, scientists, and prairie enthusiasts. The Prairie Learning Center facilities include a visitor center with bookstore, theater, classrooms and art exhibit area. Bison and elk have been reintroduced to the refuge and visitors can drive through the 700-acre bison enclosure.

** The Friends of the Prairie Learning Center is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization that supports the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge to provide money for projects that federal funds do not cover like: sponsoring internships, school field trips, scouting programs, volunteers and much more. They also manage the learning center bookstore.

For more information on the refuge and the Friends group, go to www.tallgrass.org.