The University of Toledo is known for promoting sustainability through research of advanced renewable energies, helping businesses that commercialize this research, and offering related courses and programs to its students.
In addition to all of this, the University strives to focus the public’s attention on sustainability issues. The Lake Erie Center’s third annual “Nature of Maumee Bay” art contest awards this summer is one recent example.“Throughout the Lake Erie Center and central to our mission, we aim to foster a deep appreciation of the beauty of nature and stimulate creative means to increase environmental sustainability,” said Dr. Carol Stepien, the director of the center and professor of environmental sciences.
“As part of engaging [the public], we sponsor annual art and photography contests on the theme of nature in and surrounding the Maumee Bay area,” Stepien added. “The contest helps to foster an appreciation of UT’s commitment to improving the community and in translating our scientific efforts to improve our environment for the public.”
The art contest began three years ago and was inspired by the success of the photo contest, which started five years ago. The 35 contestants this year submitted two- or three-dimensional works inspired by the Maumee Bay ecosystem flora and fauna.The participants competed in one of four categories: youth (age 12 and younger), teen (ages 12-18), adult (18 and older) and special needs adults. The four best pieces in each field were recognized and ranked accordingly, and all the winners received prizes that included Lake Erie Center shirts, gift cards and craft kits.
Eleanor Clark, who took first place in the teen category, wrote that she drew a red fox in the snow “poised as if sensing prey or possibly danger.” The 14-year-old home-schooled Perrysburg native — and daughter of two UT graduates — drew it with conté crayon and pastel on tinted paper, a process that took her approximately 16 hours.
Although art is primarily a relaxing hobby and one that gives her a sense of accomplishment, she has taken a few formal art classes at the Toledo Museum of Art and the 577 Foundation.
The winner of the adult category, Beth Short, fashioned a slightly larger-than-life-size stained glass butterfly. The 46-year-old Oregon native and employee of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources at Maumee Bay State Park first drew its design and then cut the glass section pieces, soldering them together before applying patina to the work.
“I find stained glass can be so beautiful, and if done right, the piece changes with the light and looks different each time that you happen to glance over at it,” she said.
The special needs category is new to this year’s contest and is an aspect of the event that Stepien described as “especially moving and inspiring.”
This aspect of the contest will continue in future years and the Lake Erie Center staff plans to reach out to more special needs groups when advertising the event, said Meredith Gray, a communications and technology specialist at the center.
Additionally, for next year, there will be five categories. The youth category will be divided to include a new junior category for children younger than 7 years old, and the youth category will then be ages 8 to 12, Gray said.
“The contests are inspiring to the scientists and staff who work at the Lake Erie Center and all of our visitors and supporters,” Stepien added. “We enjoy being surrounded by art and the beauty of nature every day.”
The winning artwork is on display at the Lake Erie Center through October and also is posted on the center’s website, www.utoledo.edu/as/lec. The center, 6200 Bayshore Road in Oregon, is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Entries for the 2010 photo contest are due Oct. 1. Click here for details.