Weaving Together Art and Land Preservation

October 20, 2010

On Monday, Dodge Program Director Michelle Knapik shared with us the dedication of the Scott and Hella McVay Poetry Trail in partnership with the D&R Greenway Land Trust, a Dodge grantee. Today, we hear directly from D&R Greenway about the importance of weaving together land preservation and the arts towards more livable communities, which they’ve been focusing on for many years now.

pod tree with stone

Madelaine Shellaby fine art photography of native species of the Salem County Region. Madelaine teaches at Stuart Country Day School.

D & R Greenway Land Trust

For over ten years, D&R Greenway Land Trust has recognized and leveraged the power of the connection between land preservation and the arts. The arts reach people at levels beyond beauty, revealing the natural world in new ways, and facilitating and intensifying environmental connections.

Since moving into our home at the Johnson Education Center in Princeton, in 2006, D&R Greenway has been able to expand its collaboration between art and preservation.

The Johnson Education Center houses over 3,000 square feet of The Marie L. Matthews Gallery space, showcasing art that explores and elaborates on D&R Greenway’s mission of land preservation and stewardship. One particular gallery is focused on children’s art that echoes that of the major exhibitions and include such notable projects as the Ennis Beley Project, which engages children in photography in a multi-week summer program, and Species on the Edge with Conserve Wildlife New Jersey, a juried show art and essays of endangered species.

Children's interpretations of central american molas

Molas by Stuart Country Day School 5-th Graders led by Art Teacher Deborah Land and exhibited in the Olivia Rainbow Student Art Gallery.  Molas are layered cut paper art echoing cut fabric art of San Blas Indians of Panama.  Birds of the Sourlands fly to winter habitat, passing the land of the Molas. In the Sourlands Region, D&R Greenway has been instrumental in preserving 5,331 acres of critical bird habitat.

And with the newly-opened Scott and Hella McVay Poetry Trail (as you read about on Monday), this connection with art will expand exponentially.

Updike's Barn painting

Joe Kazimierczyk Updike’s Barn, one of three plein-air paintings in current exhibition, all of lands we’ve preserved.  Updike’s Barn is on Quaker Bridge Road, where Revolutionary Soldiers marched and conquered on January 3, 1777.

Founded in 1989 to preserve New Jersey land, D&R Greenway’s four intense years of nature-themed art exhibitions in their new home have put the land trust on the map in new ways in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Participants in preservation are increasingly drawn to the superb work of stellar artists of our region. For the current exhibition, honoring Salem County landowners who helped us preserve 2,792 acres surrounding Mannington Meadows in south Jersey, artists from Salem County are featured, along with art on Salem County by significant artists. Gerald Lubeck of Vermont and Al Barker of Bordentown painted on-site, en plein air, in Salem County, bringing four canvases each to D&R Greenway.

A percentage of proceeds of exhibition sales supports D&R Greenway’s preservation and stewardship mission.

These nature-themed art exhibitions rivet the attention of New Jersey and Bucks County media. Irresistible masterworks win color presence in print journalism, galvanizing readers, earning us generous space in the world of print journalism. Our website and a constellation of other websites trumpet news of the arts at D&R Greenway to the public.


Christine Stadelmeier’s Barn to Barn – a view of St. Michael’s property barns in Hopewell, the 340 acres for which we had to raise $13 million in March of 2007 to win this land from the Diocese of Trenton.  Now trails are being built, invasives removed, natives planted, and shrubs set in along streams. We’re also planning for a CSA (community-supported agriculture) as well as a community garden.

Art exhibitions are regularly accompanied by educational programs, such as visits by: David Allen Sibley (including a birding walk in the Hamilton/Trenton/Bordentown Marsh);  author Richard Louv of Last Child in the Woods fame; Stephen Pacala, head of Princeton Environmental Institute and Al Gore’s consultant on climate change, and others.


Art of Jeff Gola, who works in tempera, and shows at the illustrious Des Champs Gallery on the Delaware River in Lambertville.  This is Jeff’s first time exhibiting with D&R Greenway.

Water and Ocean Meets Land  Sundown

Water and Ocean Meets Land: Sculpture, Water, by Salem County sculptor, Molly Carpenter and bench, Ocean Meets Land, by Salem woodworker, Zachary Robbins, in the lobby of D&R Greenway’s circa-1900 restored barn

The recent Decoys, Ducks and Habitats panel in connection with the Salem and Mannington exhibition featured: D&R Greenway’s Naturalist and Director of Land Preservation, Bill Rawlyk; Ornithologist, Charles Leck, Ph.D., Rutgers Emeritus Professor of Environmental Science; and decoy collector Jay Vawter, whose world-class collection enhances the current Salem County art exhibition on our walls. This program demonstrated the importance of habitat preservation to native species, particularly Salem county wildfowl.


International prize-winning decoys, loaned to D&R Greenway for Salem/Mannington Art Exhibit by Princetonian Jay Vawter.  All decoys are birds that frequent Salem County land and waterways.

Swan Charles McVicker

Charles McVicker, Co-founder of Princeton Artists Association, immortalizes wild mute swan as found on waterways throughout Salem County, subject of a current D&R Greenway exhibition.


D&R Greenway Land Trust is one of New Jersey’s foremost land preservation and conservation organizations.

Our mission is to preserve and care for natural and agricultural lands and historic landscapes throughout the state, for the benefit of the communities that surround them. Our vision is that of a landscape of interconnected greenways and farmlands that support a healthy environment. Our goal is to inspire a conservation ethic helping people connect with the land and the natural world. Our home is the Johnson Education Center, a circa 1900 barn. Here we present programs for professionals who work in the field of conservation as well as financial and legal advisors, government officials, landowners, grass roots organizations that support local preservation efforts, and the general public. Our aim is to raise the level of understanding and appreciation of the dynamic landscape that surrounds us and the need to steward its irreplaceable resources.

The arts are indispensable to the success of the Johnson Education Center. Art, music and poetry drawn from the study of nature facilitate education about the environment. They reveal the natural world to us all in new ways. They touch the heart and the mind.

We at D&R Greenway Land Trust hope you enjoy your journey along The Scott and Hella McVay Poetry Trail. We invite you to visit us at the Johnson Education Center – attend an upcoming program or tour an exhibit and to consider becoming more involved with the work we are doing to preserve and protect our most treasured resource – our land. For more information, our website is www.drgreenway.org and our phone number is 609-924-4646.

All images from exhibits at the D & R Greenway’s Johnson Education Center galleries.