Riverside Studios displays exhibit calling action to conserving endangered species | TahoeDailyTribune.com

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Riverside Studios displays exhibit calling action to conserving endangered species

The growing rate of illegal wildlife trade and poaching threatens hundreds of thousands of plant and animal species, resulting in a multi-billion dollar criminal market and the ultimate extinction of incredible native flora and fauna.

An artist new to the area, Ali Armstrong, was personally motivated after researching the effects of illicit wildlife hunting to call action to conservation efforts for animals like rhinos, snow leopards and elephants, using her paintbrush.

“It all started with a large painting of the extinct Tazmanian tiger I wanted to make for my husband’s birthday,” Armstrong said. “I was researching the tiger and was like, ‘hey, wow, this animal is ridiculously amazing’ and I’m so sad it’s not around anymore.”

Armstrong’s stunningly gorgeous and powerful gallery display is made up of portraits of animals in black and white paint with small hints of color showing their endangerment.

“I was fascinated about what I learned and started researching other animals that I think are really cool and are extinct – it just made me so sad,” Armstrong said.

Illegal poaching and trade is a heartbreaking reality, and rather than continue to paint extinct species as historical pieces, Armstrong realized she could raise awareness of those who are currently endangered while also contributing to make a difference.

“I really like the aspect of doing extinct animals in black and white and thought that maybe if I added some color I could represent the life that is still left and it would be more than a painting; there would be meaning behind it.”

Armstrong believes in not only calling attention to an issue but also doing what she can to have a positive impact, “let’s be active. I want to know how we can help rather than just saving ‘let’s save rhinos’ – can we provide education? Can we donate?” she said.

Her resulting art campaign now ties to select non-profit conservation organizations that she has personally researched and partnered with and donates proceeds to when her art sells. Her portraits, prints and even cards have philanthropic impact.

“I love getting behind foundations and organizations who work with local people,” Armstrong said. “I try to choose organizations that are specifically tied to the animal in the painting.”

As a mother, Armstrong is motivated to enforce change so her kids can appreciate all kinds of species in nature without fear of extinction.

“Rhinos are my absolute favorite; I am fascinated by them,” she said. “I’d say not a lot of people are aware of what’s going on. The rhinos could be extinct in 20 years if we don’t do anything and that’s the saddest thing. My children won’t be able to see a real rhino – do I really want that to happen? Absolutely not. I want these animals to be around for our kids; this is really important.”

Kath McGaughey is the studio manager at Riverside Studios in downtown Truckee and an advocate of Armstrong’s work.

“One, she’s a great artist, and self-taught at that,” she said of artist Armstrong.

“Being in Tahoe we’re naturally environmentally sensitive and I think it’s so powerful to bring awareness and actually donate to these non-profit groups from each piece of work sold.”

McGaughey is an artist herself who first sold her work at Riverside and now helps operate the gallery for local artists to have the opportunity to get their work in front of the community.

“We want to always show local or locally-affiliated artists and link to non-profits. [Truckee’s] not just a ski town, it’s a community filled with art. This community can support local artists so they’re able to live and work where they want.”

Riverside Studios showcases fresh work from artists on a quarterly basis and ihas displays booked through 2017. Artists can email the studio for consideration of showcasing their work with the studio with six to nine months notice to allow plenty of creative time to come up with their original pieces for debut at the shop.

Locals and visitors can stop by Riverside Studios to appreciate the handmade art, home goods, greeting cards and accessories created in the region by brilliant artists. The back gallery is reserved for the local featured artist’s work; its quarterly rotation brings guests fresh pieces regularly.

Cassandra Walker is a features and entertainment reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at cwalker@sierrasun.com, 530-550-2654 or @snow1cass.