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Bird X Bird: Talented brood creates art for avian friends

"Owl and Cat" by Jennifer Davis
Courtesy of Bird X Bird
Jennifer Davis’ “Owl and Cat” is in this year’s Bird X Bird auction.

Fifteen years ago, when artist Cynde Randall took a terribly injured bird to a nearby wildlife refuge for care, her life’s path changed irrevocably.

“I hadn’t even known there were such places,” Randall says. “I was so impressed by the experience that I started volunteering for a wildlife refuge after that, working in the avian nursery. I loved everything about working with the birds; it gave me the same feeling I got when I made art, like my heart was getting bigger.”

Bird X Bird (or Bird by Bird) got its start in 2002 when Randall asked nine of her favorite artists to create a portrait of the avian nursery’s patients — to individually honor the injured songbirds and raise money for Minnesota Wildlife Haven. Randall, at the time a staffer for the Minneapolis Institute of Arts’ Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program, approached some of the area’s most-acclaimed contemporary artists: among them Bruce Tapola, Alexa Horochowski, Melba Price, Carolyn Swiszcz and Christine Bauemler.

Since its inception seven years ago, Bird X Bird has grown exponentially. Randall enlisted 130 artists — printmakers, painters, sculptors, multimedia artists — to create work for this year’s reception and silent auction. (“I’m approached by people all year,” Randall says, “but we try to keep it to around 100 artists, otherwise it gets unwieldy.”) The 2009 lineup reads like a who’s-who of the local arts scene: Jennifer Davis, Amy Rice, Judy Onofrio, Celeste Nelms, Yuri Arajs, Ruben Nusz, Sue Kosmalski, Terrence Payne, Doug Padilla and more.

For art lovers on a budget, Bird X Bird offers a great opportunity to buy original work by some of the region’s best talent, and to do so affordably (most pieces have starting bids set at under $100). Most of the proceeds will support the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary in Minneapolis and the environmental research and public awareness initiatives of Audubon Center of the North Woods, organizations with whom Bird X Bird has partnered since 2004.

“Birds capture human imagination in a really magical kind of way,” Randall says.
“They’re all around us, but still mysterious — and they can fly. But we’re all so interconnected, too — that’s no canary in the coal mine, that’s you! If the birds are in trouble, we’re in trouble. By bringing the birds, artists, and the public together, we have a real chance to make those intersections clearer and more meaningful to people.”

This year’s Bird X Bird reception and silent auction, free and open to the public, will take place 6 p.m.-9 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 21) at the Northrup King Building (Gallery 322) in Minneapolis. Proceeds will support the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary in Minneapolis and the Audubon Center of the North Woods in Sandstone, Minn., and  BXB’s 2009 programming.

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