International League of Conservation Writers

Writing to inspire the love of nature and a passion for its protection

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Wilderness in America


The International League of Conservation Writers is a forum to bring writers together from around the world who are writing to promote wilderness, nature, conservation, or using other means to protect and restore the natural areas, habitats, animals, and plants of our planet. ILCW will present periodic writing awards to authors who excel in this field.


ILCW Members Are Eligible to Use  David R. Brower Office for Conservation Writing

Come write, do research, and be near wild and protected areas in Colorado while working in the David R. Brower Office of Conservation Writing. Sit at the same desk used by Dave Brower. There is no cost to use the office.
If interested apply here.

  “What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves
and to one another.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

Of Interest

Rhino Rubbing Stone


ILCW member Paul Dutton (South Africa) and game ranger Mdiceni Gumede, shown here in the iMfolozi Game Reserve, sit atop an ancient Rhino Rubbing Stone. The granite rock is estimated to be 300 million-years-old. Rhinos use the rock to rub their tummies against it to rid themselves of caking mud and ticks. Well used, the top of the stone is burnished from 50 million years of rhino use


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Mali Elephant Project Awarded 2017 Equator Prize
Carlton Ward

Photo by Carlton Ward

The Mali Elephant Project
, a joint program of the WILD Foundation and International Conservation Fund of Canada, was among 15 chosen by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and partners as winners of the Equator Prize 2017, recognizing local and indigenous communities from Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

In a drought-prone zone rife with resource conflicts and violent extremism, the Mali Elephant Project (MEP) brings together various ethnic groups to effectively manage local resources and protect an internationally important population of 350 endangered African elephants from one of two remaining desert elephant herds in Africa.

Through the formation of community-based natural resource management committees, the provision of additional income through support for women’s groups engaged in sustainable harvest of non-timber forest products, and anti-poaching measures involving ‘eco-guardian’ youth community members, the initiative has reduced poaching of elephants in the 32,000 km² area, improved social cohesion between different local communities, and contributed to peace-building efforts by providing alternatives to joining extremist groups. Communities have created rules for local use of natural resources, set aside forests for elephant use, formed pasture reserves, and designated seasonal water sources to be shared by people, livestock, and elephants.

The winners were selected from a pool of 806 nominations across 120 countries by an independent Technical Advisory Committee of internationally renowned experts. The selection process emphasized community-based approaches that provide a blueprint for replication. Many of the winners are advocating for their models to be replicated at national and international levels, which would significantly advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. For more information, click here.

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Book Reviews

Paul Dutton
Spirit of the Wilderness

2017, 30 Degrees South Publishers
Paperback, 320 pages

This is an autobiographical account of a career in conservation and of an abiding love affair with Spirit of the Wilderness, a Piper Super Cub, two-seater, light aircraft. It tells of a partnership between man and machine, which proved invaluable in countless campaigns to support and conserve wildlife and wilderness areas in southern Africa. A chance encounter in 1953 with the late Dr. Ian Player, South Africa's greatest name in conservation led to a career in that field which still continues after nearly sixty years. There are detailed and absorbing accounts of stewardship during the 1960s and 1970s of some of South Africa’s best loved and most beautiful reserves; Lake St Lucia, iMfolozi, Ndumo, and later the Gorongosa National Park, Zinave and the Bazaruto Archipelago in Mozambique. There are tales of hair-raising episodes and some serious mishaps at the wheel of Spirit of the Wilderness, and on the ground, the author records what he was privileged to learn from the knowledge, experience and wisdom of indigenous game guards and local communities in South Africa and Mozambique. The reader will encounter a huge diversity of flora and fauna, both terrestrial and marine, some of it now perilously endangered, and also a remarkable cast of fellow eminent conservationists, filmmakers, writers, sangomas, soldiers and bandits from two wars in Mozambique, and is introduced to that country's then president Samora Machel, with whom Paul came to have an intriguingly cordial relationship.

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Lori Robinson (ILCW member) and Janie Chodosh

Wild Lives

Leading Conservationists on the Animals and the Planet They Love

2017, Skyhorse Publishing
Hardcover, 224 pages
Passionate and inspiring, Wild Lives is an important and timely reminder of the beauty and fragility of our world and the obligation that every person has towards preserving it.

“Almost every day we hear one more story about a species facing extinction, a habitat destroyed. And indeed, planet earth has never been so threatened by human actions. This is why Wild Lives is so desperately important. The people in this book are united by their belief that it is not too late to turn things around. You will be inspired by their stories. You will realize that there is hope for the future if we join the fight, if each of us does our bit.”


Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE,
and UN Messenger of Peace,
founder of the Jane Goodall Institute

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Mark Hendricks

Natural Wonders of Assateague Island
2017, Schiffer
Hardback, 144 pages The cover sold me.

Whatever followed in the ensuing pages most likely would be riveting, and Mark Hendricks does not disappoint. As much as writers love to use words to create lasting images in readers' minds, Mr. Hendricks, a photographer, has captured the flora and fauna of Assateague Island National Seashore in a wonderful photo collection to be left visibly out for family and friends to enjoy.

Gracing the cover are three ponies, their manes swept here and there by the coastal breezes, that are indelibly linked to the national seashore that spans parts of Maryland and Virginia. Though the seashore's ponies are not native -- local lore has them surviving a shipwreck, or perhaps brought to the islands in the 17th century by their owners to graze -- they are an unofficial symbol of the national seashore.

Mr. Hendricks teases us into his book with these three ponies, and once inside it's easy to get figuratively lost in the landscape of Assateague. Here's an osprey overhead, carrying nesting materials, that the author photographed from his kayak. There's the 142-foot tall Assateague Light that dates to 1867, still sending its warning beacon out to sea.

Turn page after page and you'll encounter Royal terns caught, as it seems, in mid-conversation, a Snowy owl, delicate blackberry bush and the unusual barometer earthstar fungus that unfurls its leaves when rain and humidity arrive. These are the images that help define Assateague Island National Seashore ... and help reinforce that key aspect of the National Park Service mission to "conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein..." not only within Assateague, but throughout the National Park System.

Spend a weekend or a week at Assateague, and you might come away thinking you experienced the seashore. Mr. Hendricks' book might convince you otherwise after you explore the images he presents to us. Prickly pear cactus at Asseateague? Yucca, which he captured in bloom. Blue grosbeaks and blue crabs. Fiddler crabs in battle, a solitary semipalmated plover strolling the beach in search of a meal. A red fox trotting through a landscape turned white by a winter storm.

The author also includes conservation messages in text sidebars, such as why we have to be aware of piping plovers. He explains the presence of Snowy owls, a species normally found in Canada but relatively rarely seen in coastal Virginia/Maryland, telling us that an overpopulation of the snowy white birds in their normal haunts "forces many to winter farther south than normal, where food and space is plentiful. Assateague Island, with vast numbers of prey sources and wide-open beach, provides excellent habitat for the visiting owl."

And he introduces us to perhaps the most famous of the seashore's horses, Charcoal, reportedly the only black stallion on the Maryland side of the seashore. In today's wired world, where reading attention seems to focus on 140-character bites or poorly spelled texts, Natural Wonders of Assateague is both a quick exploration of the national seashore and one that sparks the curiosity, to visit as well as to read more about this magical spot in the National Park System.
--Kurt Repanshek, National Parks Traveler

Mark Hendricks talks about this book.


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ILCW now on Facebook ILCW members, please check out the ILCW Facebook page and add content. Tell us what you are working on, what changes you see in the area of conservation (good and bad) in your area, include news from you: have you recently won any awards or accolades? Have you recently published a new book or article or perhaps finished a piece of art, performance piece, photo that glorifies the natural world? This page is for you, please enjoy and generate interest in ILCW and what we do. ILCW facebook

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Looking for Creative People Who Appreciate Nature

Do you have a friend or a colleague who is passionate about Nature and believes that we should protect what we have for future generations? ILCW welcomes all creative people (not just writers) who use their talent to bring awareness to the plight of our natural world. Have them apply to be an ILCW member at here.
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Do you have news?

Let us know if you have won an award, written a new book, or launched a creative endeavor to bring awareness to conservation. Chances are the ILCW membership is not aware of these things, so be sure and tell us. Send items

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The Hudson: A River at Risk -- Upcoming Screenings
Jon Bowermaster, ILCW member (USA) and filmmaker has set up a series of screenings about the Hudson River and the environmental dangers it encounters. To see if there is a screening near you (or to schedule one) click here.To see the film trailer click here.

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Aug. 28-Sept. 2, 2017
Women River Writing and Sculpting Journey -- Canyonlands National Park, USA

ILCW member Page Lambert (writer) with featured guest, Roxanne Swentzell (sculptor) will journey 6 days and 5 nights down the Colorado River. Attendees will sculpt with their hands, using river clay and materials gathered from the land, and will also sculpt with words. For more information.

Roxanne Swentzell (L) with Page Lambert in front of Swentzell’s sculpture “Mud Woman"

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April 21--May 2, 2018

Weaving Words and Women: A 12-day Peruvian Adventure
ILCW member Page Lambert will take adventurous women to the high Andes of Peru next April. There will be writing, markets, incredible food, horseback riding opportunities, Inca ruins, and more. For details, click here.





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Featured Video

Paul Barton plays the piano for blind, injured and orphaned elepahants at a sancturary in Thailand.

" I wanted to see if the elephants -- and other animals, such as cows, buffaloes and ducks at the sanctuary would listen to music."

Past Featured Videos

Member Writings

Giving In

By Rebecca Lawton (USA)
Previously published by Hunger Mountain, the VCFA Journal for the Arts

American Robin
When someone raps at my kitchen window, I jump out of my chair. It’s before dawn, in the hour when the horizon emerges as a gray line on the ephemeral lake before me. I’m staying in the Oregon Outback, at a retreat center as remote as Neverland, where the prospect of a face at the glass spooks me. I peek around. It’s a robin tapping, pausing, and tapping again. My pulse settles. I can consult avian specialist Noah, also a writer in residence at Playa Fellowship Program, about whether the robin is mentally ill.

When I ask Noah, he tells me that the robin’s failing the “mirror test” – he doesn’t recognize the face in the glass. Instead, he sees a possible mate or a territorial rival. His disregard for data is normal, Noah says, and won’t stop until I close my curtains.

I loathe shutting out some of the most dazzling light on the planet, though, on the parched edge of the Great Basin. During my first stay at Playa, I labored as an ant does from sunrise to sundown despite the light. This second residency, however, comes when the batteries in my brain are flatter than those in a mislaid flashlight. The idea of working would amuse me if I had the energy to laugh.

Somehow, I’ll rally. I’ll strive again through the hours. I’ll barely leave the cabin for breaks. I’ll do as Jack London said he would do (and did): “I shall use my time.”

But now, there’s this robin. Out beyond his little head, fields flash with the scarlet and yellow of finches and goldfinches attacking dandelions for their seeds. An oriole hops branch to branch in a pine, his orange and black matching the sunrise. People and birds come here for pretty much the same reason: to stop over for long or short stays in a basin with a wide, blue sky and sweet, seasonal water. Some migrators pass through in minutes. Some linger for days or a season. A lucky few stay for years or a lifetime.

I draw the curtains. An inner voice warns that I need rest, but I push it aside. When else will I have such an opportunity to work? The planet needs every voice it can get now that climate deniers have been voted into major public offices.

The robin moves to a bedroom window. I put on a pair of noise-cancelling headphones that I thought I’d never need out here. The tap-tapping continues, but farther away. Something could be learned from the robin, I’m certain, but lessons be damned. I labor on. Thirteen more days to go.

Common Poorwill
The next days of my residency mimic the first. Rise, go to the desk, and put new words on paper. When I stop, it’s not for long. At night I seldom sleep, tired but wired. I persevere, despite knowing that the Latin roots are per, meaning thoroughly, and severus, meaning severe. Thoroughly severe, implying, to continue with little prospect of success.

On the fourth morning, when I review what I’ve written, my heart falls. The sentences lack life. There are no original ideas. It’s dull and overblown. In short, it’s utter crap. Discouraged, I step out to my deck as a flock of white-faced ibises, long necks outstretched, pass over the lake’s shimmering surface. Noisy pairs of Canada geese bark like small dogs in tall grasses. Each day more migratory birds arrive in hordes.

Returning inside I look in the bathroom mirror. Fatigued eyes in a drooping face stare back. That can’t be me.

I almost never drink, and never alone. After all, didn’t Rhett Butler say, “Never drink alone, Scarlett?” Nonetheless, I open a bottle of Grenache I’ve brought from home and down a glass before taking the rest to dinner in the Commons. Conversation is the last thing I want, but around the big communal table, I find instant rapport with the other residents. The residency has opened up their creativity in unforeseen ways. Noah and another passionate birder, the poet Farnaz, are planning to drive up Highway 31 after dark to look for common poorwills. My curiosity stirs, but I push it down, knowing I plan to rise at dawn to write.

Across the table a printmaker, Barbara, describes the arc of her nearly completed six-week residency. Her work shifted partway through her stay, after a visit to the archeological caves south of Summer Lake. In those ragged holes in an ochre cliff, some of America’s oldest fossil human feces have been found alongside the bones of waterfowl, fish, and extinct camels and horses. Once Barbara’s curiosity was ignited about the ancient landscape, she developed a process of collecting images directly from the ground. She strapped wooden blocks to her feet before hiking nearby trails and Forest Service roads. After the treks, she removed the worn and roughened blocks and inked them for printing. The results are both coarse and fluid depictions of geologic textures.

“I gave in,” Barbara says. “When I opened to this place and the people, and let the surroundings transform my work, it made all the difference.”

Immediately, I decide to go into the night with Noah and Farnaz. We drive to Picture Rock Pass, our windows open to the scent of new things growing. Parking by the side of the road on a pullout covered with volcanic cinders, we tread with care to lessen crunching noisy rock. At the end of the pullout, overlooking the stunted piñon-juniper forest, Noah pulls up a sound recording on his phone – the call of a common poorwill. The bird is known to answer to a whistled poor-will.

Poor-will, poor-will, goes Noah’s phone. Silence, silence, goes the night. In a minute we hear the steady advertising call of a northern saw-whet owl. A few ring-billed gulls above us mew like loud kittens. Miles away in the valley, cattle moan, their ghost voices carrying above farm and forest.

The nagging advice I’d disregarded sinks in – this is what I need. This valley, this night, this basin, these people. Otherwise, my well is too dry to sustain writing about water or climate or anything else. I could no more write a new book than walk five miles into this night on printmaker’s blocks.

The poorwills remain silent, not hearing or believing the silicon voice of Noah’s phone. On the drive back to Playa, he and Farnaz tell me about the Punchbowl. It’s an open dish of land set among ridges above Summer Lake. One resident saw five black bears, all at once, on a hike there last week. I vow to go, too, alone. It will be just one day off from the ten more days of residency, in this dry valley where robins attack windows and sleep stays a stranger.

Mountain Bluebird
At dawn, after four hours of actual slumber, I set out with my writing notebook, binoculars, bird book, and a canister of bear spray. I’ll return to Playa by late afternoon, before large carnivores start their dusk feeding. Following the Forest Service trail, I find early wildflowers bursting forth in crimson, gold, and lilac every few feet. Meadowlarks burble and flee as I approach. A thin cloud cover rests on a jagged row of ridges in the distance. The only large trees still standing are white skeletal snags, stripped of their foliage and bark by a past forest fire.

Soon I come to a broad basin that must be the Punchbowl. The trail continues, though, and so do I, despite new growth crowding the trail and fallen trees blocking the road like log gates guarding Oz. Climbing up and over them, I’m careful not to twist an ankle or blow out a knee with each landing. Somehow, I manage to scrape both shins through my hiking pants, drawing blood.

After hours of thrashing, I reach a patch of live woods. The air is chilly and full of mosquitoes. Busy swatting insects, I nearly miss a bird perched just yards away. It’s the bluest bird in the history of the world, a mountain bluebird, poised to fly. It’s many shades deeper than the sky. Remembering that a story’s told in the details, I catch some in my notebook, quick, like floating dandelion seeds.

On my way down the trail, the pull of gravity makes the return trip easier. Midway back, I flush a poorwill from a clump of manzanita in the overgrown trail. The bird escapes on a rush of wings. If only Noah and Farnaz were here. Back in the cabin, after eight hours away, I barely have energy to clean up and eat while standing in my kitchen. I fall on the bed and sleep until morning.

Nine days of residency to go. It may not be enough.  

Franklin’s Gull
At dawn, I drive ten miles to the Summer Lake Wildlife Refuge. An introductory kiosk notes that hundreds of species of mammals and birds live on nineteen thousand acres watered by an elaborate system of pipes and canals. I enter on a dirt road at the breakneck speed of ten miles an hour, seeing only a few ducks and geese. I hit the brakes at the eastern edge of the property. Thousands of ducks, geese, terns, gulls, sandpipers, phalaropes, and other shorebirds browse a shining pond. Some are in flight. Some stroll beaches. Some dive and dabble. Some face beaks-first into the wind. A small gull wings past, a species with a black head and thick white crescents above and below its eyes. A newbie for me, it’s a Franklin’s gull, which breeds and summers farther north.

I gaze until I’m satiated, then find another kiosk sign that tells me aridity is increasing, as are nearby human populations. I pull out my notebook and write.

Water in refuge = life. Climate change = drier refuge. Alfalfa shipped elsewhere = broken local water cycle.

When I leave the refuge hours later and return to my cabin, I type up notes on wildlife and its dependence on the same water depleted by growing irrigation demands. I work without effort until dark. I don’t count the days left in residency.

I’ve started writing about things that I came here to write about.  

Calliope Hummingbird
On my last full day, I take a Forest Service road to Winter Ridge. The well-groomed gravel surface would allow me to drive fast if I felt like it. Instead, I go as slowly as the (nonexistent) traffic will allow, about eight miles an hour. Maybe I’ll see a Williamson’s sapsucker, a life bird for me, up in the high forests. Reaching a wet meadow with a small stream, I hear wood-pecking all around. None resembles the start-and-stop, Morse-code tapping of sapsuckers, so I continue on.

I drive with my windows open, pulling over often, stopping near patches of old-growth forest among the new growth recovering from logging. The woods are full of life. A red-tail hawk masquerades as a broken pine branch until he lifts wings and flies. A golden eagle dwarfs the telephone cross-pole she’s hunkered on. A brilliantly colored lazuli bunting, more turquoise than lapis blue, hangs out on a log.

The last bird of the day is a stunner, a calliope hummingbird feeding in a burned-over patch of woods. The smallest bird in North America, dragonfly-sized, arrives with a flash of violet throat and soft buzz of wings. The bird hovers only a moment before zooming off.

So it goes with writing and birding.
You try to find a sapsucker, but stumble up on a tiny jewel of a hummingbird. You persist and strive despite a robin showing you the insanity of ignoring results. You go out calling for a poorwill, only to flush one out the next day after discovering another bird more blue than the sky. Or you think you’ll uncover a labyrinthine waterworks, but spend hours immersed in sanctuary and the surprise of a new species. Near the roof of a basin that holds light and sky in the same grip as alfalfa and cattle, you open to it.

Somehow, you do not fail the mirror test. You find a way, as Barbara did with her printer’s blocks, as Noah and Farnaz do with their birding, as the birds do with their migrations. You crunch the data, no matter how it comes to you.

You return to the world again and again and pour it out in your own voice.

Article on ILCW blog or Hunger Mountain. VCFA Journal for the Arts

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Mud Slide in China
A mud slide at the end of June brought on by heavy rains in Sichuan Province China occurred just 25 miles from the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda which is in part supported by Pankds International.. All staff and pandas are safe but more than seventy people were missing and twenty were found dead after the mudslide two dozen miles away. Nine years ago in 2008 a massive earthquake damaged the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda, killing one female panda and causing great damage to the center. Nearly 90,000 people were killed in the Sichuan Province in the 2008 earthquake that injured 375,000 people and left 5 million homeless.

Heavy rains of the last few weeks in central and southern China have caused flooding that displaced 1.6 million people.

Source: Firstpost, July 10, 2017

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US Post Office Unveils
Henry David Thoreau Stamp
©2017 USPS

The U.S. Postal Service is honoring Henry David Thoreau during the bicentennial year of his birth with a Forever Stamp. A first-day-issue stamp dedication ceremony took place Tuesday at the Walden Pond State Reservation Visitors Center in Concord, Mass. Thoreau was born July 12, 1817. The stamp art is an oil-on-panel painting of Thoreau's face based on an 1856 daguerreotype by Benjamin Maxham. On the right side of the stamp is Thoreau's signature of his last name, and below it a branch of sumac leaves. Sam Weber was the stamp artist and art director Greg Breeding the designer. "Thoreau was one of the great thinkers in this country's history on a wide variety of subjects, and the expression on his face in the stamp image captures his introspective and inquisitive nature," said USPS general counsel and executive v-p Thomas J. Marshall. Actor and environmentalist Ed Begley Jr., a board member of the Walden Woods Project, said, "Thoreau holds a significant place in the history of our country. The commemorative stamp not only celebrates the 200th anniversary of his birth, but reminds us of his continuing influence regarding 21st century global environmental and social reform challenges. It is fitting that the first-day-of-issue for the Thoreau stamp takes place at Walden Pond--the place that inspired him--and the birthplace of the American conservation movement."

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Calls for Work and Retreats

Publisher Seeks Stories on Climate Change

Call for entries:
The publisher of Life Plus 2 meters is looking for essays about living in a climate-change world. This non-commercial, crowdsourced project will offer prizes for essays selected:

1. Authors offer their vision of a climate-changed world where sea levels have risen by 2 meters, “extreme” weather is routine, and humans must adapt to complex changes in environmental, social, political and economic conditions. These visions may bring optimistic, pessimistic, social, technical, macro, and/or micro perspectives to the discussion. There is no right way to engage this complex topic.
2. Authors’ visions are published as blog posts for discussion and debate. We are currently publishing work as submitted, so send it in!
3. Visions are collected into a book for publication. This has happened once and will happen again! For more information click here.

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Alluvian accepts creative nonfiction, science journalism and science narratives, cartoons and art, and/or narrative analysis of data related to sustainability, climate change, the environmental sciences, the human engagement with nature, or other topics about the environment. Authors must be an undergraduate or have graduated with an undergraduate degree within the last 18 months. Accepting submissions for fall issue: Climate Change: And Away We Go! Deadline September 30, 2017.

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Futurescape's 2017 writing contest, "Blue Sky Cities," is looking for stories set in the near-future where significant strides have been made in improving air quality and/or climate adaptation.  Stories should blend plot and character with the nuances (positive or negative) of technology, science, politics, and/or policy. No entry fee; prizes range from $500 - $2,000. Deadline is October 13, 2017.

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The Fourth River has launched Tributaries, a weekly, online publication of "...the brief and the inspiring, that which sustains and takes us through unexpected courses..." Nature or placed based short prose (500 words), one poem, or one piece of visual art can be submitted here.  Each week we will feature a new piece on the front page of our web site.

Thank you to our source: Adrienne Ross Scanlan

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