As part of its 85th anniversary celebration, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary will exhibit a collection of 30 pieces of art by acclaimed wildlife artist Fred Wetzel of Albany Township.
The free exhibit, “Spirit of the Sanctuary” is open to the public through Sept. 30 in the Visitor Center Gallery. Wetzel created several new originals for the display, which will be for sale.
“Fred met Hawk Mountain founder Rosalie Edge several times, and the first curator Maurice Broun and his wife Irma were like his second parents. He spied on hawk shooters and collected dead and dying hawks that were shot along this ridge,” explains Sanctuary President Sean Grace.
“One weekend Fred collected 847 sharp-shinned hawks,” he adds. This work, Grace says, helped to inspire legislation to outlaw hawk shooting for all but three species of accipiter in 1937, and ultimately all raptors with the passage of the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1972.
“Fred is a living example of Hawk Mountain’s unique history,” Grace adds.
A self-taught artist, Wetzel credits the late Irma Broun as his first agent. “In the 1940s and '50s, Irma sold my work from the front porch of Schaumboch’s [the Sanctuary’s first residence],” he recalls.
By age 18, he had sold two pieces to the Reading Museum. In the 1960s he served four years as the assistant curator to Alex Nagy and used his skills as a naturalist and artist to illustrate The View from Hawk Mountain and The Mountain and the Migration.
He left the Mountain for a career as a biology teacher, but returned to his “hobby” to enjoy a second life as an independent wildlife artist. He received private art instruction under the late Conrad Roland, who was himself a student of Louis Agassiz Fuertes, widely considered second only to John James Audubon as the most prolific American bird artist.
But much of Fred’s art is inspired by his life-changing experiences with the Brouns and his time on Hawk Mountain. His striking images of hawks, eagles and falcons resonate with the spirit of the Sanctuary, and so are the ideal artwork to celebrate the Sanctuary’s 85th year as the world’s first refuge for birds of prey and an international center for raptor conservation.
The 2,500-acre Sanctuary is open to the public year-round. Trail fees, bookstore sales and membership dues support its local to global conservation programs.