Jessica Ann Hessing knows that our wild places can inspire art, and that art can also inspire conservation.
In her latest collection, “In the Glades,” the painter focused her paintbrush and her message on saving the Florida Everglades. The collection will be released on Monday, Oct. 19.
“Although different, the Everglades and Florida Bay play a huge role in the future of the Florida Keys and the tourism we rely on,” she said. “I chose to do this collection because I often hear bits and pieces about the Everglades needing our help, but little about why and how we do our part. I knew that my collection research would help me get a better understanding and reach my collectors, who may also not know much about it.”
Hessing took her family, including sons Bennett, 6, and Griffin, 3, to Everglades National Park for a week of “glamping” at the start of September. She found inspiration in waking up each morning to watch the birds and the mountains of morning glories in full bloom with her coffee. The family also took sunset bike rides, where the purple and pink skies cast a golden hue on the fields of sawgrass and left an impression on the painter.
“My boys loved the Everglades,” she gushed. “They helped me realize the little things that were so special about this place. They didn’t miss a thing and helped me put together the story this collection tells.”
Hessing tries to incorporate her boys and her collectors in everything she does, to show both that they can do what they love and give back at the same time. Sharing those experiences and what she’s learned, either in person with her family or through her art with her collectors, helps the artist bring to life the places that she has come to love and wants to protect.
Back in the studio, Hessing found herself digressing from her usual ocean blues and greens in her first piece for the collection, a long winged zebra butterfly. The vibrant greens of the background surprised even the artist herself. She fell in love with the lushness they portrayed and the story behind it and pulled that color palette through the entire 20-plus piece collection.
Hessing has partnered with local nonprofit organizations before to boost awareness and conservation. For this collection, she selected Florida Bay Forever and Captains for Clean Water as her partners and expressed her honor to learn and work alongside both groups.
“I believe that Captains for Clean Water are reaching the most critical group of people — the everyday fishermen, divers and ocean-loving individuals — and helping us understand what’s going on,” she shared. “Florida Bay Forever is doing an amazing job raising awareness for us locals in the Keys. Often, we feel disconnected from the ‘mainland’ and are not well educated on the issues of the Everglades and Florida Bay.”
Funds from the collection will help support the work that both groups do.
“Art and conservation are such a perfect pairing and really help connect people in a unique way,” the artist said. “It is important for me to give back to the environment through my work, and I plan to do one to two large partnerships a year that benefit our environment.”