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CEDAR FALLS — Graphic, graceful posters of songbirds, water birds, raptors and other birds appear ready to take flight from the walls at Hartman Reserve Nature Center’s Interpretive Center.

“RARA AVIS: A Poster Exhibition About Audubon’s Birds” is a collection of 27 posters designed by nine undergraduate graphic design students in the University of Northern Iowa Department of Art.

The exhibit will be displayed through Feb. 28.

Students created the posters during the fall 2017 semester as a project in an introductory course in design taught by Roy Behrens, professor emeritus.

He chose Audubon’s birds as the subject after discovering that the naturalist’s watercolor paintings are now in public domain and out-of-copyright. The images are available to download at their large original size.

“Each student was asked to use an Audubon image of their choice and create a suite of three posters. The posters had to have the same text promoting an exhibition of the commemorative Audubon posters that they had made,” says Behrens, who recently retired from UNI.

Rather than simply reproduce the artwork, students had to reinterpret Audubon’s paintings. Students rearranged, dissembled and remixed the paintings to fit their design and chose typography that is original and expressive, while not obscuring Audubon’s highly detailed, accurate and eloquent paintings, Behrens explains.

“The poster art is a unique way for visitors to develop an appreciation for nature. When people learn to appreciate nature, they want to preserve it—that’s our educational mission,” says Connie Svoboda, Hartman Reserve Nature Center development coordinator and naturalist.

Audubon’s book was published in 1827 and 1838 and contains 435 life-size watercolor illustrations of North American birds reproduced from hand-engraved plates, according to the National Audubon Society. At, visitors can view the entire digital library and download free high-resolution images.

Behrens says the series title, “RARA AVIS” is a Latin term that translates as “rare bird,” and is meant to “signal that the posters are not merely reproductions of Audubon’s artwork, but new reinterpretations of them.”

The nine students whose work is included are Sophia Grover, Ross Hellman, Sydney Hughes, Lydia Madsen, Hanna Seggerman, Cheyenne Strelow-Varney, Mallory Thurm, Samantha White and Charles Williams.


Arts/Special Sections Editor

Special Sections Editor for the Courier

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