Mentors in Saskatchewan Honoring Artists (MISHA) Residency Pilot Program

June 26-30, 2021
Hannin Creek Education Centre
Saskatchewan, Canada
(Please click on link.)

Jay N. “Ding” Darling (1876-1962) was a modern day renaissance man. He was a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist for the Des Moines Register. He was the first recipient of the Aldo Leopold Memorial Award. Darling’s ability to collaborate and build partnerships has been a catalyst for the way that we look at our landscape and love for this planet.
Darling’s drawing on a piece of cardboard in 1934 led to the creation of the Federal Duck Stamp Program, which has raised over $1 billion to acquire and protect wildlife habitat.
Appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Darling led the U.S. Biological Survey, the forerunner of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and established 28 wildlife refuges.

Darling’s initial pledge of $9,000 sparked the establishment of the Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program (now in 40 universities across the United States) and the Wildlife Management Institute.
In 1936, Darling was instrumental in founding the National Wildlife Federation, also a template for the Canadian Wildlife Federation.

The J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, Florida, and the Lake Darling State Park in Brighton, Iowa, honor his name and conservation efforts.
Lake Darling and Darling Dam in Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge were named in honor of his work as the first director of the Bureau of Biological Survey.

The Fish House, on Captiva Island in Florida is owned by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. It gives resident artists space for focused work, quiet reflection, and observation of the natural environment.

In 2004, I had the pleasure of meeting Christopher “Kip” Koss, Darling’s grandson, and his wife Andrea. “Kip” had contacted me to inquire about my interest in producing a documentary on Jay N. “Ding” Darling. Wet behind the ears, I immediately said, “yes,” as I knew about the 1934 Duck Stamp that Darling created as well as the Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, Florida, named after him. In 2010, I began with an extraordinary team, including my assistant, Pat Fralick, to fund raise and to produce a “sixty minute” documentary, America’s Darling: The Story of Jay N. “Ding” Darling. During this time, “Kip” became my best friend and mentor up until his death in November 2013. It was during this time that I continued to learn and listen about one of our greatest of all conservationists and visionaries. Darling produced over 16,000 editorial cartoons, helping to shape both policy and landscape of our world. He was truly an extraordinary artist. From the time Darling was young, he always had a sketchbook. As a result of “Kip” and Andrea’s friendship, I am honored to have a number of Darling’s sketchbooks, artwork, etchings, and treasures that the world rarely never seen, including some of his brushes. I also created a traveling exhibit titled, The Hidden Works of Jay N. “Ding” Darling, which was exhibited in Winnipeg at The Wildlife Society Conference a few years back.

Through my travels with the exhibit, I learned a lot about the connection between art and conservation or stewardship. I like to refer to Darling’s words – “the wise use of our natural resources and its impact on people of all demographics.” I have learned that it is easier to begin a dialogue about stewardship through art and artists than other less creative means. Hence, my dream of beginning An Artist in Residence Program based on Darling’s works and visions was born. As the primary sources are unique, so should be the pilot program: MISHA Residence Program.

I have had the pleasure of sharing some of Darling’s works with Alejandro Romero, Arts and Culture Consultant, Public Art Program in Saskatchewan, Canada. Mr. Romero’s expertise and extraordinary interpretation of some of Darling’s most inspiring works led to further defining MISHA. A five day program of six to eight artists including one from Des Moines, Iowa, (where Darling lived, worked, and created) will take place in Hannin Creek, SK that is conducive to nature and creativity. These Canadian artists chosen would also be invited to come to Des Moines, Iowa, for a second part of the program based upon the success of the pilot program. Works created by the Artists would be exhibited in both my traveling exhibit and at Drake University, where we are developing an Institute based on Darling’s Legacy. The works would also be exhibited and on loan to Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation for a period of time to support their mission and vision.
….Sam Koltinsky, Director, Jay N. Darling Legacy Center

Comments from an artist’s perspective on Darling’s artwork that was on exhibit at The Wildlife Society 2019 Annual Conference in Reno, Nevada, USA.

The Mentors in Saskatchewan Honoring Artists (MISHA) in Residency Pilot Program is a platform for ten emerging and middle career artists to respond to and become inspired by the original works from the collection of Jay N. Darling’s art.  “Ding” himself, through his cartoons, motivated and shaped conservationists and artists in the United States, Canada and beyond. The MISHA Residency Pilot Program lays the foundation for artists using various disciplines to become outdoor dreamers and activists soaring once again as Darling did.

During the week long residency, the artists will have an inside look and first time ever access to interact with the unseen remarkable original artworks, sketchbooks, and etchings from the Darling collection. This will inspire and connect with the persona of Darling: the visionary, the cartoonist, conservationist and pioneer of the National Wildlife Federation.

A new body of contemporary works will be created by the resident artists and exhibited in Canada and the USA to promote the influence of the timeless collection. It’s intended that this residency promotes synergistic collaboration between artists who will create original art inspired by Darling’s legacy.

The current diversity of multi-disciplinary practices considers art as a component for social justice, activism, and diversity as ways to expand the message of stewardship and conservation of our endangered planet. The world is shifting. Artists, as Darling was, are creative leaders who can articulate the relationship between arts, its surroundings, nature and the impact that it has on all beings. The legacy of this residence will inspire others who will witness the interpretation of the new works created by the residents. This program is intended to become an important grassroots strategy. It is one of social action, partnership and collaboration. Artists are shape shifters, visionaries and active stewards of our planet.
….Alejandro Romero, Arts and Culture Consultant, Public Art Program, Saskatchewan, Canada

“To ensure the wild life legacy we leave to our children surpasses that which we inherited.” – Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation Mission Statement.