From a young age, Gary Eldred loved nature. He could be found hiking, fishing and exploring the woods and fields around Albany, Wisconsin where he grew up. Gary became aware that many of the wild places he enjoyed were being lost to development and increased agricultural pressure. “Reading Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac gave me a new perspective on caring for the land,” Gary said. “I began to think about how I could give back to nature rather than always being a consumer.”
Gary’s interest in native prairies emerged in the mid 1970s and he became one of the founders of The Prairie Enthusiasts – an organization dedicated to preserving prairie in Wisconsin. Gary began sketching native prairie plants in the winter of 1989. In order to raise awareness of these rare species, he completed this collection of 23 pen and ink drawings over the course of three winters. Gary did this without any formal training in art and his last pieces took more than 40 hours to complete. He was inducted into the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame in April 2021.
Holy Wisdom Monastery offered the first public exhibit of this remarkable collection of Eldred’s work in January of 2019. The collection, showing the delicate beauty of native prairie plants, was donated to the monastery by Ron Endres, who has been instrumental in prairie restoration at Holy Wisdom and is a past council member of the Friends of Wisdom Prairie. Ron met Gary through his own membership in The Prairie Enthusiasts and felt that Holy Wisdom‘s mission of caring for the earth was a perfect fit for the collection.
The exhibit will be available January 7-31, 2024. Gallery hours are Tuesday-Friday, 8:00 am-4:30 pm (excluding holidays) and Sunday, 10:00-11:00 am.