Blog : Art for a Cause

By Sarah Mahoney | Apr 1, 2015 | in

By Sarah Mahoney

PORTSMOUTH - The natural landscape has long been an inspiration to creative people. Artisans have worked for centuries to try and capture its beauty through a variety of mediums. Today, with nature's splendor at risk of degradation, local artists are inspired to use their craft to bring awareness to its protection.

Great Bay Stewards (GBS) is one of several well-known organizations dedicated to spreading awareness to protect New Hampshire's environment using art to spark conversation. For over a decade, the Stewards have hosted the annual Art of Great Bay fundraiser to help raise money for the Great Bay Discovery Center. Local artists are encouraged to contribute to the show by submitting paintings, pottery, glass, sculptures and other forms of art.

The 11th annual Art of Great Bay will take place from April 17 - 19 at the Hugh Gregg Coastal Conservation Center at the Great Bay Discovery Center in Greenland. The event is to be open to the public throughout the weekend.

The Art of Great Bay event started small, according to GBS' Executive Director, Peter Wellenberger. In the past, art focused on the Great Bay was recommended for the show in the form of paintings. Now, several different mediums and themes are embraced. “Watercolors, pastels, and photography are very big now," said Wellenberger. “Some table art including jewelry tables are featured." Growing steadily in popularity since its beginning, the Art of Great Bay now welcomes upward of 700 participants and guests each year.

Artists who contribute receive 70 percent of the profits from each piece of art sold, with the Great Bay Stewards, a nonprofit, receiving the remaining 30 percent. That 30 percent is used to support GBS' ongoing educational programs at the Great Bay Discovery Center. Each year, the Art of Great Bay's artwork focuses on a central theme. This year the focus will be on work inspired by the “Culture, Architecture, Agriculture and Diversions of the New England Coast.”

Great Bay Stewards was founded in 1995 by a diverse group of volunteers coming together to support the Research Reserve and the Great Bay Discovery Center. The Stewards support the center’s activities through financial and volunteer support. In the summer, the group offers kayak trips as well as programs for children focusing on the flora and fauna of the Great Bay known as Bay Ventures.

GBS is also hard at work to restore and improve the quarter-mile boardwalk that winds through and around the Great Bay Estuary. “We’re within $8,000 with this campaign," said Wellenberger, noting there is still money to be raised. Wellenberger's goal is to raise $350,000 in total for the project. According to Wellenberger, a recent, large donation to GBS' boardwalk has put them closer to completing that goal with just two months left in the campaign.

GBS is an avid member of the Green Alliance, a union of local, sustainable businesses that connects green businesses with the community. Through the Green Alliance, GBS has spread awareness on issues relating to shoreline erosion, invasive plant growth and increased nitrogen levels from human-caused water runoff. Their commitment to research helps to support projects that focus on issues relating to sedimentation, excess nitrogen loads, habitat loss and off-setting the carbon footprint of manufacturing companies and waste disposal.

“We’ve always encouraged people to use recycled materials," Wellenberger said.

On April 17, there will be an opening reception for the Art of Great Bay beginning from 5:30 - 8:00 p.m. Hors-d'oeuvres and drinks will be available.

On April 18 and 19, the event will feature work reflecting culture, architecture, agriculture and other activities that take place in the seacoast region. As an addition to the show this year, on Saturday afternoon there will be an afternoon tea. This will include tea, coffee, cake, and more for the attendees.

For Wellenberger, the Art of Great Bay, and its reception, are one his favorite events put on by GBS. “It’s our only time to dress up," he said

To learn more about the Art of Great Bay, please visit

To learn more about the Green Alliance, visit