Exhibit raises awareness for endangered species

Eva Frederick

In the time it might take for a person to walk through Art.Science.Gallery.’s latest exhibit, up to eight species of animals are estimated to go extinct.

“In Danger (or, you should really, really give a shit)” is a new exhibit at the gallery located in east Austin, showcasing artwork of critically endangered species. The show, which runs until Nov. 28, features several talks and classes in addition to the artwork. Viewers can take immediate action at a postcard writing station where they write to world leaders about conservation efforts.

After visiting through the American Museum of Natural History, Hayley Gillespie, the gallery’s owner and UT alumna, and guest curator Jedidiah Dore created the exhibit to draw attention to situations surrounding animal population declines. Instead of simply showcasing portraits of the animals, “In Danger” focuses more on the concepts of the threats the animals face and what people can do to help.

“We wanted more than just to raise the alarm and say ‘this is happening,” Dore said. “We also wanted to raise questions and come up with answers, and more importantly for the people to have answers as to what they can do upon viewing the work so that they can take action.”

The exhibit includes paintings, drawings and three-dimensional art by artists from Texas, New York and Portugal. One interactive piece is an “altar of remembrance,” constructed by Austin artist David Martinez. Martinez designed the piece to honor and remember extinct species, as well as people who have lost their lives defending endangered animals.

Martinez and the other artists who submitted to the show were asked to include a short descriptive text about the featured animal detailing the situation and possible solutions to the problem. Studio art senior Natalie Bradford, one of the featured artists, wrote one for both of her pieces. 

“They printed out that entire thing and had it next to the art, so I think that was really impactful,” Bradford said. “You can read exactly what’s up and how you can help.”

In her piece, “Seep,” Bradford highlights the diminishing numbers of vultures in India, a situation caused by the use of antibiotics for farm animals. Bradford said vultures eat the dead cattle and die because the antibiotic in the carcasses is toxic to them. This causes the species to decline, greatly affecting the ecosystem.

The Art.Science.Gallery. is donating 5 percent of the profit from art sales to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of threatened species, a comprehensive ranked database of endangered animals. “In Danger” focuses on species marked as critically endangered that face extremely high risk of extinction on the wild.

Several other environmental organizations are partnering with the show, including the Dumpster Project, the E.O. Wilson biodiversity Foundation and the Endangered Species Condom Program.

Although the topics of the artworks in “In Danger” can be emotionally heavy, Dore and Gillespie said they designed the exhibit to leave people with hope for the future of these animals.

“Our intent is not to scare people or to paralyze them with fear, but to actually give practical solutions that people can take, whether they want to write a postcard or whether they want to get more involved with the movement,” Gillespie said.

Gillespie said she and Dore hope the exhibit will inspire viewers to take action to help endangered species and educate them about the effect human actions have on the environment.

“I think people will really learn why they should really, really give a shit,” Gillespie said.