“Alberto Rey: Biological Regionalism: Oswego River and Lake Ontario” –- an exploration of the history and the present condition of these waterways by the noted artist –- will culminate in an exhibition opening March 4 in SUNY Oswego’s Tyler Art Gallery and at a series of campus and community events.

Connecting with SUNY Oswego's previous Grand Challenge: Fresh Water for All project, the goal of this program is to combine science, art and community interaction to create conversations on cultural, social, economic, technological and geopolitical issues related to these key local bodies of freshwater. 

Running from March 4 to April 2, the “Alberto Rey: Biological Regionalism: Oswego River and Lake Ontario” exhibition includes a series of large paintings, historical information, ecological research, large maps, video projections and an illustrated catalog. Highlights on Friday, March 4, include an opening reception with the artist in Tyler Art Gallery from 5 to 7 p.m. as well as Rey giving a special gallery tour and taking questions from visitors at 2 p.m.

A range of community partners – including SUNY Oswego’s Artswego Performing Arts Program, Tyler Art Gallery and Rice Creek Field Station; New York Sea Grant; the Oswego County School District; the H. Lee White Maritime Museum; and River’s End Bookstore – are working together for programming to include art workshops for children and adults, nature walks, lectures and discussions with the artist and area educators and researchers on related topics, special tours, a catalog release, family-friendly storytelling and more.

Natural impact

New York has the second longest shoreline of any of the Great Lakes States, as well as a significant portion of the North Coast of the United States. As one of the five Great Lakes, Lake Ontario is a vitally important natural asset. The Great Lakes cover more than 94,000 square miles and hold an estimated 6 quadrillion gallons of water – about one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water supply and nine-tenths of the U.S. supply. 

The system is invaluable as the source of drinking water for more than 48 million people in the U.S. and Canada. The lakes directly generate more than 1.5 million jobs and $60 billion in wages annually. They also are home for more than 3,500 plant and animal species, some of which are found nowhere else on Earth. Recreation on the Great Lakes – including world-renowned boating, hunting and fishing opportunities – generate more than $52 billion annually for the region.

Yet the declining and fragile health of the Great Lakes is not widely recognized even among those who live on their shores, organizers noted. Because of human activities, at least 10 species of fish have gone extinct and at least 15 non-native species have been introduced in the Great Lakes in the last 200 years. Pollutants in the Great Lakes system tend to intensify due to the relatively slow movement of water from west to east. 

“Biological Regionalism: Oswego River and Lake Ontario” brings the focus even closer to home, as the exhibition addresses the current status and future issues surrounding Oswego County’s most precious natural resource. This exhibition identifies as art, science and activism, filling the need of uniting local audiences of all ages to build awareness and pride in these local bodies of freshwater and the complex ecosystem they support.

Related events

Activities will begin on Thursday, March 3, with a catalog release and signing from 5 to 7 p.m. at River’s End Bookstore, corner of 19 West Bridge St. in downtown Oswego. The public is invited to stop by to pick up a complimentary exhibition catalog for “Biological Regionalism: Oswego River and Lake Ontario” and have it signed by Rey. Donations will support River's End and Rice Creek Field Station. Refreshments will be served.

From March 3 to April 2, a display of educational banners from New York Sea Grant about invasive species, shipwrecks and historical lighthouses of the Great Lakes region will be on display in the Tyler Hall lobby.

A series of community events in early April will bring this project to audiences of all ages. These include:

  • April 2, 10 a.m.: Children’s Gyotaku Fish Printing, H. Lee White Maritime Museum, foot of West First Street in Oswego. Printmaker Suzanne Beason will help visitors create their own fish print using this traditional Japanese technique, as well as experiment with vinyl fish replicas and learn about species found in Lake Ontario. This activity is designed for ages 6 to 17.

  • April 2, 2 p.m.: Biological Regionalism: Oswego River & Lake Ontario Curator’s Tour, Tyler Art Gallery. Co-curators Michael Flanagan and Miranda Traudt will lead a tour of the exhibition at Tyler Art Gallery and discuss the process of creating the far-ranging display.

  • April 9, 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.: Interactive Nature Hike by Oswego County Soil and Water Conservation District, Rice Creek Field Station. Staff from Oswego County Soil and Water Conservation District will be on site with a fun and interactive self-guided nature trail. It will feature more than 25 items to view related to the environment and outdoors. All items have a correlating question and answer on a printed sign.  (Event will be indoors if weather necessitates.)

  • April 9: Bird Drawing Workshops for Children (10 a.m.) and Adults (1 p.m.), Rice Creek Field Station. Join Cazenovia College art professor and lifelong birder Anita Welych for a chance to learn about and depict a local shore bird in pencil and watercolor. Ages 10 and up recommended for the children’s session. Some prior drawing experience is recommended

  • April 9, 11 a.m.: Guided Nature Walk by Rice Creek Naturalist, Rice Creek Field Station. Rice Creek's naturalists will be the guides as visitors explore the forests, fields, wetlands and waterways of the 350-acre wildlife preserve. Suitable for all ages. 

  • April 9, noon: Storytelling Activity by Rice Creek Naturalist, Rice Creek Field Station. Visitors will hear tales of nature, the wild ways of animals and how humans relate to the natural world. These programs are designed for elementary-aged children, though all are welcome. 

Funding for the project came from a SUNY Oswego Grand Challenge Fresh Water for All Mini Grant, as well as Artswego, CNY Arts, NOAA Sea Grant, Rice Creek Association, Richard S. Shineman Foundation and the college's Student Art Exhibition Committee/Student Association.

For more information and to register for community programs, contact Michael Flanagan, director of Tyler Art Gallery, at michael.flanagan@oswego.edu.