On a recent weekend, five Vermont artists — Barbara Zucker, Leslie Fry, Lynda McIntyre, Catherine Hall and Meg Walker — flew their coops in the Green Mountain State and landed at the Wild Bird Fund on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The name is a bit of a misnomer; the "fund" is actually a facility that accepts rescued injured birds and nurses them back to health as they're able. Then, says Zucker, the caretakers return the creatures back to whence they came and release them.
The facility also accepts baby squirrels and turtles, she notes, but its mission is primarily avian rehabilitation.
So what have Vermont artists got to do with a New York bird rescue? Zucker, whose step-granddaughter works at the Bird Fund, wanted to do something to benefit the facility's work, which she calls "wonderful." Being an artist, she reasoned that she and some likeminded friends could do what artists do — make art — and then offer the works to the Bird Fund to use as it wished.
And so the five Vermont artist friends headed to the city, drew and painted birds during the day and stayed in various places at night. Zucker described the experience as unexpectedly, and deeply, moving.
"The birds seemed to know they were in a safe place," she says. "They weren't afraid. That kind of intimacy with creatures happens only in very rare situations."
Here's what Zucker shared via email:
We watched a swan head home to Massapequa (he'd had lead poisoning), a Canada goose hung out within two feet of our chairs (hit by a car twice), two very funny ducks swam and preened while our sketchbooks were virtually book to bill, and a baby cardinal sat on Leslie's head (this, though, is against the Fund's principles, as they don't want the birds to like humans too much) ...
Within four hours on Sunday, four injured birds were brought in, some so tiny they fit easily in the palm of the hand. I watched a policeman with gun, nightstick and two-way radio in place stand fascinated as the injured starling he'd helped get there was examined; several small children appeared with their parents and bird in a box, participating in what may have been their first good deed. Truly this is a place of wonder, making miracles one feather at a time.
Zucker says that out of all the works the artists created that weekend, they culled 46: 16 small and 30 larger works she is having matted. "We're presenting all the work to the organization and saying, 'You can make postcards for sale, or whatever."
The Wild Bird Fund of New York has just four or five staffers, Zucker says, and some 100 volunteers. And then there are the volunteer rescuers — from little kids to NYC cops — who bring in the animals to be treated. The place —a Columbus Avenue storefront crammed with critters — is "very special," she concludes. "A very unique vibe."
Photo of "George the Swan" by Lynda McIntyre. Watercolor by Catherine Hall.