Art Meets Ecosystem With Paint By Nature:Streamside

Oct 16, 2018

Several of Lexington’s natural areas or greenspaces are being featured in the Paint by Nature: Streamside Art Exhibit.

The art show at the Pam Miller Downtown Arts Center is inspired by local greenways and streamside restoration projects.

The beginnings of the art exhibit, Paint by Nature: Streamside, started because Dawn Shroyer’s  2 -year -old  son enjoyed  playing in the creek running behind the Shroyer home in Fayette County.

“Initially I was excited for him because I grew up enjoying rural spaces but then I realized he was in an urban stream and I wanted to find out what was in the water and became a trained water quality monitoring volunteer, and that has sort of been the starting point for my interest in streams.”

Shroyer researched stream restoration projects in the region. She also photographed some of the streams and native plants. Shroyer wanted to raise awareness about greenspaces in Lexington and what stream restoration projects add to the area.

“We’re adding a lot of flowering plants which are attracting pollinators. So when you spend time in these places you see butterflies and birds. You see yellow finches and things you just don’t get to enjoy in some of our more boring turf grass dominated spaces. You also see frogs and beavers in some of these streams now and ducks.”

Shroyer thought inviting citizens to paint the greenspaces for an art exhibit would help enlighten the public. She pitched her idea of Paint by Nature: Streamside to city officials including Demetria Kimball-Mehlhorn, program manager with environmental services in Lexington. Kimball-Mehlorne says Paint by Nature gives another aspect to those people who might not be outside in nature but want to appreciate what it is.

“The science of Paint by Nature is to show the beauty of our native plants. So many people don’t realize the native plants have a deeper root system and so it helps absorb water, filter storm water, and also hold stream banks. Plus it’s beautiful so we’re bringing the art side and the environmental side together.”

Kimball-Mehlhorn says she thought Paint by Nature :Streamside would be a good  spin-off of Plant by Numbers, a program she brought to the bluegrass. Plant by Numbers is for citizens who’d like low maintenance, pollinator friendly gardens but don’t know where to begin. It provides templates that give guidance on what to plant, where.

So combining Plant by Numbers with Paint by Nature was a good fit for the city.

Dawn Shroyer, however, came up with Paint by Nature because of another art program sponsored by

Arts Connect in Lexington, a non-profit designed to strengthen the arts.

Kate Savage, founder and director, says Dawn approached her because she knew of Paint the Town where people are invited to paint downtown cityscapes of Lexington. Savage was delighted to help with Paint by Nature. She says more than 60 local artists have works  in the exhibit at the Pam Miller Downtown Arts Center.

“We have a charming piece that was done in felt. We have several mixed media. One artist incorporates coal dust in his art work. Another is done on an embroidery hoop and there’s a little bird that has actually been embroidered on a tree branch. Obviously, oils and acrylics. There’s a collage piece. Really across the board.”

There are interpretations of 13 sites featured. The exhibit was not juried and there were no prerequisites.

Again, Kate Savage.“So anybody who submitted an artwork had it hung. There was one young person there who was 11 years old and she came to the reception with her mom and had done a lovely little piece, quite worthy of hanging on the wall and told me she spent five hours painting it.”

Arts Connect founder Kate Savage says Dawn Shroyer is responsible for “planting the seed” of Paint by Nature. Shroyer says she’s not an artist but did submit a piece she painted at Greenacres Park. She calls it “Milkweed Monarch”. Seeing the final art gallery was an emotional experience for her.

“I was part of helping to organize the labeling.  Initially I had hoped for 15 or 20 but we had over 70 and they’re just beautiful.”

Paint By Nature :Streamside can be seen At the Pam Miller Downtown Arts Center through October 21st ​