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Published March 7, 2024
Updated June 28, 2024

A Resilient Vision: Art Returns to the Maxwell Mays Wildlife Refuge

By Betsy Sherman Walker

Twelve years after the opening of the Maxwell Mays Wildlife Refuge, Audubon has embarked on what might fit in as the final detail in the story of Mays’ legacy—as an artist, a conservationist, a lover of wildlife, and a philanthropist.

Quinn, a lifelong artist, is a native of Warwick and has been teaching art in the area for more than 25 years. She currently leads a weekly art class for adults with special needs at the Warwick Center for the Arts, as well as monthly watercolor workshops. Her connection to Audubon runs deep; from 2013-2015 she ran the Fresh Palette art studio at the old barn located at the Parker Woodland Wildlife Refuge in Coventry. When the house and barn was sold to help finance the endowment of the Parker Woodland property, Quinn recalls, “I figured I’d take my passion and pour it into life in some other way.

“When I heard that,” he said, "I thought it might be a perfect fit for the coop.”

Allison Barrett, Maxwell Mays’ niece and companion during the later years of his life, lives on an adjacent piece of property – a gift from Mays. Her fondest memories are of walking the trails with him, almost daily. In a recent conversation with Hall, Barrett confirmed that the notion of “bringing the art back to the refuge” is something Mays would have endorsed, wholeheartedly.  “He could paint for hours and not be interrupted,” she noted in a previous conversation. But he was also very social, she added “and also loved to entertain friends at his house on Carr Pond, fill it up with people who appreciated it as much as he did.”

Quinn says she never met Maxwell Mays, but that her stepfather would mention growing up in the same Providence neighborhood, and that he was “proud to have owned a print of Max’s well-known painting ‘Buttonwoods.’” Her attraction to the coop reveals an artist’s practiced eye, and an artist’s sixth sense about what it takes to create a good painter’s retreat. Besides maintaining the Lake House for other renters, she has also spent numerous weekends there, bringing fellow artists along.

The chicken coop will be busy. Quinn is planning on classes for all ages, and in a variety of media. Her plans include plein air watercolor sessions beginning in May, workshops on painting seasonal birds on glasses (beginning with the hummingbird); and both youth and adult weekend sessions of papermaking. She will be offering a journaling workshop for young children, and to honor Earth Day, in April she has scheduled a recycled art workshop during spring vacation.

Carr Pond, and the fields and woodlands on the property will be adding artists to Mays’ envisioned list of visitors. Mays’ resilient vision prevails —and seems to be growing. And from where Maxwell Mays would be standing, framing with his hand one of his many wildlife scenes, paints at his side, Quinn sees it from an artist’s perspective. “I really look forward,” she says, “to spending more time on the property, on the fields, quietly painting and reflecting.”

Get Creative This Summer!

Here is the summer 2024 Maxwell Mays Art Studio class schedule. Click the links to register!

Wednesday Walk and Watercolor
Come to the Maxwell Mays Wildlife Refuge on Wednesday mornings in the summer for walks and watercolor painting. A new watercolor technique will be explored each week and put into practice with a seasonal theme. At the end of each series an 11”x14" matted painting will be ready to frame! All materials and morning coffee / tea provided. 

Four-week Sessions - Two Options Available:

  • Session 1:  July 10, 17, 24, 31, 2024 (9:30 am - 1 pm) - RSVP HERE
  • Session 2:  August 7, 14, 21, 28, 2024 (9:30 am - 1 pm) - RSVP HERE

Open Studio Thursdays
It’s open Studio! Bring your artwork on Thursdays to share and work in the studio space or outdoors En Plein Air. Morning coffee / tea provided. Meet in the parking lot at 9:30 am. 

Four-week Sessions - Two Options Available:

  • Session 1: July 11, 18, 25, August 1, 2024 (9:30 am - 1 pm) - RSVP HERE
  • Session 2: August 8, 15, 22, 29, 2024 (9:30 am - 1 pm) -  RSVP HERE 

Explore simple printmaking techniques using natural and recycled materials to create an owl and other small colorful feathered friends. Our paper sculptures will be ready to hang! Maybe even fly away!

August 16, 2024; 6:00- 8:30 pm; RSVP HERE

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