PenguinArt by Kate Garchinsky

Tag: martha

It’s bad form to go months without blogging. My only excuse is that I’ve been working hard on something greater. I knew that if I wandered off-course to talk about what I was doing, then I would no longer be doing it. I’d be digressing. As I am now. No time for that. No time!

I’m happy to report that I’ve officially finished my dummy for my picture book about the Passenger Pigeon. It’s in the hands of an editor who asked to see it. A solicited submission. I can’t even describe what a humongous deal this is for me. Up to this point I’ve only ever submitted illustration samples and portfolios—never with my own writing. I have long suffered an impostor complex when it comes to adding “author” to my illustrator name (a #TBT post for another time). Let’s just say that my inner poopynannyhead of a critic has been banished to sulk in the corner.

Such good things come from spending time at the Highlights Foundation in Honesdale, PA.

This time last year I spent a long weekend in a crash course led by the godfather of aspiring children’s authors, Harold Underdown. It was the first time I brought all my scraps and bits and pieces about Passenger Pigeons together, and laid them on a table for feedback. I came away from the workshop feeling nurtured, like someone important who knew better than most people actually believed in me. It gave me courage to take bigger baby steps in my writing. You might say I hatched from my protective shell that weekend.

Then, I applied for the Highlights Foundation Writing About Nature Retreat, to be held in May 2014. I was accepted, I attended, and gobbled up seeds of truth and wisdom like a hungry little squab. I grew quickly with the support of my own flock.

A few weeks later, I received a call from Kent Brown, inviting me to attend Chautauqua East in June. Well now, I wasn’t prepared for that! That’s like, one of those serious conferences for those really serious writers who have written and published a hundred thousand things, right? So I thought until I was invited. Honored, I packed my bags again and this time spent a glorious week in the barn in the field by the woodland stream. I wish I could impart just how much more knowledge, support, encouragement, confidence, belonging, and nurturing flowed through me during this magical, week-long adventure. In keeping with the bird analogy, here I fledged.

Fledgeling birds step out of the nest partially feathered, then flutter clumsily to a branch or lower elevation, while receiving continued meal deliveries and guidance from their parents. So it has been for me. I have private Facebook groups with my fellow attendees and faculty from each of these retreats where we keep track of each other, deliver morsels of encouragement, and celebrate each other’s baby giant steps. If I hadn’t experienced such love and validation from the people of the Highlights Foundation, I would likely still be sitting on this pigeon book idea, arguing with my inner poopynannyhead about my right to write it. Instead, I’ve taken my first flight into children’s publishing. I can’t wait to share what happens next.

Pigeon Art is Everywhere

Because I’m an author AND illustrator (yeah, that’s right!), I’ve been painting a lot of Passenger Pigeons. Almost every bird of mine has made it into the public eye at this point. In the May/June issue of Birding magazine, my Passenger Pigeon studies accompany an article by Joel Greenberg, author of A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction, co-writer of the new documentary From Billions to None: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction, and founder of Project Passenger Pigeon. Joel connected me with the editor of Birding, as well as the curator of collections at the Woodson Art Museum, and the good folks at the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove. The Woodson took two of my earlier pigeon studies for inclusion in a special exhibit, titled: Legacy Lost and Saved: Extinct and Endangered Birds of North America, which opened the same day as their annual “Birds in Art” exhibit. I think the super-coolest part about this exhibit is that my paintings will hang in the same room as Ivory-Billed Woodpecker originals by the late, great Don Richard Eckelberry. I mean, for real. And they’ll hang there through July 2015.

The Plight of the Passenger Pigeon at the John James Audubon Center. Photo ©2014 Stephen Kacir.

My group exhibit at the John James Audubon house, The Plight of the Passenger Pigeon, opened this weekend on the second floor of John James’ childhood home in Audubon, PA. How about that. Five of my Passenger Pigeon-inspired originals share the room with bird art by other local artists and illustrators, including Michael Adams, Ponder Goembel, Mallary Johnson, Brigida Michopulos, and Lisa Lapoint Roese. There’s also a Passenger Pigeon specimen stuffed by J.J. himself. The show hangs through November 15, 2014.

Never before has my art enjoyed such bird spirited company. I haven’t quite wrapped my head around it.

I sincerely hope that with all these events, and some yet-to-be-announced events to come, I’ll give Martha and her flock of Passenger Pigeons some of the lost attention and remembrance they deserve.

Now if you’ll please excuse me, there’s a Carolina Parakeet named Incas tapping at my window sill.

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Tag: martha

Use this image to #RememberMartha in your social media streams on 9/1/14. Full post to come on the subject.


Tag: martha

AUDUBON, PA — Opening Reception on Saturday, September 13, 2014, 10:00 AM – NOON
Live book readings by Kate Garchinsky (10:30 am) and Ponder Goembel, Artist(11:00 am)
Show hangs through Saturday, November 15, 2014

This special exhibit, displayed in the historical childhood home of John James Audubon, will honor the life and loss of the Passenger Pigeon. Once the most numerous bird in North America and possibly the world, the Passenger Pigeon met its extinction at the Cincinnati Zoo on September 1, 2014. Not a “messenger pigeon,” “carrier pigeon,” or a “homing pigeon,” the Passenger Pigeon was a wild force of nature that mesmerized anyone who witnessed it, including John J. Audubon. Despite its abundance, in just a few short decades of the 19th century, the Passenger Pigeon was extinguished forever through the careless exploitation of humans. The centennial of its extinction is a teachable moment. Learn more at Project Passenger Pigeon.

The show features Kate Garchinsky’s new collection of children’s book illustrations in mixed media, plus sketches and studies of the Passenger Pigeon on paper. Her iPad drawings will be on display in a digital picture frame slideshow.

Michael Adams (
Kate Garchinsky (
Ponder Goembel (
Mallary Johnson
Brigida Michopulos
Lisa Lapoint Roese (

RSVP on the event’s Facebook Page.

Tag: martha

WAUSAU, WI —  From September 2, 2014 through July, 2015, the Woodson Art Museum presents Legacy Lost & Saved: Extinct and Endangered Birds of North America. The exhibition comprises artistic portrayals of extinct and endangered species, including the great auk, passenger pigeon, Carolina parakeet, heath hen, and Labrador duck, which are recent extinctions – designated as lost since 1500.

The museum’s curator of collections, Jane Weinke, based the theme of the exhibition on Project Passenger Pigeon, an initiative throughout North America to mark the centenary of the bird’s extinction on September 1, 1914. The exhibit includes two of Kate Garchinsky’s passenger pigeon illustrations, drawn from the extinct bird collection at the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel in Philadelphia, PA. Both illustrations were recently featured in the American Birding Association’s Birding magazine (May/June 2014).

The exhibition has four categories; Passenger Pigeon, Too Late: Modern Extinctions, Wisconsin Stories, and Successes. The Museum’s extensive collection and a few loans provide the 30 works in the exhibition, including sculptures and drawings by The Lost Bird Project‘s Todd McGrain, and  passenger pigeon paintings by the “dean of U.S. wildlife artists,” Owen J. Gromme. Original drawings of the ivory-billed woodpecker by Don Richard Eckelberry are also included. Eckelberry’s April 1944 sighting of the ivory-billed woodpecker is universally accepted as the last official species record.

 For more information, contact Kate Garchinsky at, or visit the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum’s website.

Tag: martha

Passenger Pigeon, adult male by Kate Garchinsky

Audubon, PA—During the month of April 2014, two of Kate Garchinsky’s passenger pigeon paintings hung in the historic barn at the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove. The annual “Drawn From Nature” exhibit was juried by Lynne Horoschak, program manager of the MA in Art Education with an Emphasis in Special Populations at Moore College of Art & Design in Philadelphia. Awards were chosen by Master Pastelist Carol Kardon, who herself has received over forty awards, including a Pew Foundation Grant. 

Kate Garchinsky’s pastel painting, Passenger Pigeon, adult male, executed from a mounted specimen at the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University in Philadelphia, received an honorable mention for works on paper.

“To say it’s an honor is an understatement,” said Garchinsky. “To have my pigeons roost in Audubon’s barn is a dream come true. My hope is that someone who walked through those doors asked themselves, ‘I wonder what a passenger pigeon is’? and investigated it more.”

The show was on display from April 11 through April 27, 2014. Over 200 pieces were chosen, and more than 1,000 visitors attended the exhibit. In addition to Kate Garchinsky’s passenger pigeon pastels, local artist Mallary Johnson’s hanging installation, Eclipse, commemorated the 100 year anniversary of the extinction on the passenger pigeon, a bird once so common that John James Audubon reported observing a flock so large that it eclipsed the sun for three days. The installation included over 1,500 origami passenger pigeons folded by local school children and members of the community.

Garchinsky is currently working on writing and illustrating a non-fiction children’s book about the passenger pigeon, titled, Martha: The Very Last Passenger Pigeon on Earth. The book will be released in eBook format in September 2014 at the centennial of the species’ extinction.

Her pigeon pastels will also be on display in September at the Woodson Art Gallery as part of a special passenger pigeon and extinct species exhibit, curated by Jane Weinke.

For more information and updates, visit Kate Garchinsky’s website,

John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove
1201 Pawlings Road Audubon PA 19403
Today, 175 acres of Mill Grove’s original estate remains largely as Audubon found it – a haven for birds and wildlife. The property boasts more than seven miles of trails and stunning views of the Perkiomen Creek. The historic three-story stone farmhouse serves as a museum displaying original Audubon prints, oil paintings, and Audubon memorabilia. The John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove is owned and operated through a unique partnership between the Montgomery County Department of Parks & Heritage Services and The National Audubon Society.

Tag: martha

Passenger Pigeon Cuddle by Kate Garchinsky

My mother will proudly confirm that my first word was “bird”.

In my early days of tree climbing, I would drape myself across a branch in our Japanese maple tree and wait for birds and squirrels to come close. I decided that if they could see how kind-hearted I was, they would come closer, let me pet them, and be my friends. Having seen my share of animated movies, I knew it was definitely, definitely possible.

But no matter how still I sat, how sweetly I whispered, or how hard I wished, the birds flushed at the sight of me. I scared them. Why? I thought. Their fear felt like personal rejection. But I would never hurt you, I said to them in my thoughts.

Passenger Pigeon sketch by Kate Garchinsky

Thirty years later, while volunteering in wild bird rehabilitation at Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research, I fulfilled my childhood dream of handling wild birds. Raising orphaned baby songbirds from hatchlings to fledglings, I came to understand and respect their wildness. The instinct has developed over hundreds of thousands of years of bad experiences. To birds, we are predators, no different from any other. As soon as they realize we’re not their mother birds, they want nothing to do with us.

Plus, “evolved” as we are, we constantly invent, use, and produce new hazards to wildlife (and ourselves): Guns. Powerlines. Energy byproducts. Cars, planes and trains. Fishing lines and nets. Windows. Chainsaws. Warfare. Pest controls. Fires. Toxic waste. Poison. Garbage (well, some birds do like trash). Even violent weather.

Many of these dangers have been developed within the past century and a half—far too quickly for wildlife to adapt. What about before that? Were any North American birds already extinct before the industrial revolution?

Passenger Pigeon sketch by Kate Garchinsky

In August 2012 I asked myself these questions for the first time. In my web search for endangered extinct North American birds, I met the passenger pigeon—almost exactly 100 years after it had met its demise. Its journey to extinction was swift, and the details of its death were painful—almost too hard to bear. What was more unfathomable was the fact that I had never heard of this bird before. Why hadn’t I been told its story when I was in school? Was I home sick that day? Did everyone else know about it but me?

I began to ask around. “Have you ever heard of the passenger pigeon?” The answers I got were a mixture of “no” and, “yeah, like carrier pigeons, right?” Nobody in my family or amongst my friends ever heard of the actual bird, or how it was wiped off the face of the earth in just a few decades. No one knew how there once were billions in North America, and now none. Nor did they believe me when I spouted out the horrid details of their annihilation. No wonder, I thought. It is an unbelievable, gruesome story. One that needs to be told. Not just to grown-ups, but to kids, too.

It’s a story that ends with a little old bird named Martha. I‘m working on it. 

So are othersLearn more right now via #ProjectPassengerPigeon. Or check out the next issue of Birding, featuring my pigeon illustrations and an article by Father Passenger Pigeon, otherwise known as my friend, Joel Greenberg.

Passenger Pigeon, adult male by Kate Garchinsky
Passenger Pigeon, adult male by Kate Garchinsky
Winner Honorable Mention for Works on Paper at the “Drawn From Nature” juried art exhibit at the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove in Audubon, PA, April 2014