Birds of an artistic feather will flock together on the UW-Stevens Point campus Sept. 15-16 when the university hosts the 2017 Federal Duck Stamp Art Competition. This is the nation’s only federally mandated art contest and the first time the competition has been held in Wisconsin.
“We think Wisconsin is a great place for natural resources and conservation,” said Christine Thomas, dean of the UW-Stevens Point College of Natural Resources. “We have lots of people interested here in waterfowl, wetlands and wildlife viewing, and we think that there just couldn’t be a better place for the contest to be this year.”
Thomas has judged the competition in other venues across the country and worked as a volunteer helper for several years. She said her prodding to bring the competition to UW-Stevens Point finally paid off this year.
The art competition is a function of the Federal Duck Stamp program, which was signed into law as the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act in 1934 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a way to raise funds to restore destroyed wetlands and lost migratory waterfowl habitat leading into the country’s Dust Bowl days. The act requires all hunters age 16 or older to buy the federal stamp, now more commonly known as a Duck Stamp.
The first stamp was designed by Iowa political cartoonist J.N. “Ding” Darling, who at the time was chief of the Bureau of Biological Survey, which later became the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Later stamps were designed by noted artists, including Portage County artists Walter E. Bohl (1943-44 stamp) and Owen J. Gromme (1944-45 stamp), who was curator of birds and mammals at the Milwaukee Public Museum.
The official art competition began in 1949 and draws entries from nationally known artists across the country.
When Bohl and Gromme designed their stamps, they cost $1 to purchase. When Wisconsin artist Martin R. Murk won the 1977-78 contest, the stamp cost $5, and it was $10 to buy for the 1987-88 hunting season when a design by Onalaska artist Arthur G. Anderson graced the stamp. The price went to $25 starting the 2015-16 hunting season.
But the increase has returned value.
Since its inception, sales of duck stamps have generated about $800 million for the federal Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to purchase and lease about 5.7 million acres of wetland and wildlife habitat for the national Wildlife Refuge System and other federal habitat protection programs. In Wisconsin, the system includes the Horicon, Trempealeau and Necedah national wildlife refuges and the Leopold and St. Croix wetland management districts.
Wisconsin is among the top five states across the country for the number of licensed waterfowl hunters, and its residents are major contributors to the fund, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
A Junior Duck Stamp program and art contest began in 1989 to support a conservation education and arts program for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
Entries for the 2017 adult competition were due Aug. 16 and will be brought to Wisconsin where a panel of five art, stamp and waterfowl authorities will judge them Sept. 16 in the Noel Fine Arts Center-Michelsen Hall, 1800 Portage St., on the UW-Stevens Point campus. The free public event opens at 9 a.m. with judging beginning at 10.
The winning art will be featured on the federal duck stamp that goes on sale July 1, 2018.
It is fitting that UW-Stevens Point be the host. The university is home to the country’s first conservation education program and is one of the best known natural resources colleges in the world. Thomas said UW-Stevens Point has the largest undergraduate natural resources program in the country and a budding waterfowl focus with the endowment two years ago of a new chairman in wetlands and waterfowl conservation. The position was filled by Professor Jacob Straub, an Appleton native and UW-Stevens Point graduate.
Thomas said the UW-Stevens Point venue allows “a cross pollination” of the only federally sponsored art contest, which does so much to protect wetlands and waterfowl in North America, with the university’s strong natural resources program and outstanding arts program in the College of Fine Arts and Communication.
In addition to the open art show, the public is invited to be involved at the virtual level with a Fantasy Football-type league competition sponsored by CREATE Portage County. Participants can see the new stamp art ahead of the competition and speculate on the winner. Information is available at https://t.co/GniH9jFWgh or in CREATE Portage County’s Facebook posts.
Other on-the-ground events will take place Sept. 15-16 in conjunction with the duck stamp competition, including the inaugural Wisconsin Waterfowl Association Decoy Carving Competition opening 9:30 each day in the Dreyfus University Center Laird Room. Children’s activities will be held in Albertson Hall in the UW-SP Museum of Natural History.
Downtown Stevens Point will hold its Art in the Park program beginning 10 a.m. Sept. 16.
Additional events can be found at http://www.uwsp.edu/cnr/pages/federal-duck-stamp-contest.aspx.
The art display of this year’s entries continues across the country, beginning with a showing Sept. 19-Oct. 3 at the Flyways Waterfowl Museum, S. 5780 Highway 159, Baraboo. Additional venues can be found at http://www.fws.gov/birds/get-involved/duck-stamp.php.