National Geographic photographers and explorers Mac Stone and Carlton Ward Jr. have made it their mission to educate people on the importance of wildlife conservation in the Florida Everglades and beyond. Through photography and storytelling, these artists capture the essence of majestic creatures in their ever-shrinking natural environments—and this season, art enthusiasts and conservationists alike can admire their work in Tequesta.
During its sixtieth anniversary season, Lighthouse ArtCenter will host a must-see exhibit of their awe-inspiring work. Wild Hearts will run January 18 to February 24 in the center’s Schorr Gallery, featuring Stone and Ward’s images of panthers, alligators, snakes, bobcats, bears, birds, and more. Stone, who is on the board of directors of The Everglades Foundation, and Ward, who founded the Florida Wildlife Corridor project in 2010, hope the show will educate guests on what these creatures add to Florida’s ecosystem and what we can do to aid in their survival. Also part of the exhibition are colorful animal paintings by Austrian artist Helmut Koller and three-dimensional sculptures by Canadian artist Ellen Jewett, which will be on display in the center’s Spencer Gallery.
One creature that is close to the artists’ hearts is the Florida panther, our state’s official animal, which has been on the federal endangered species list since 1967. “The Florida panther is an umbrella species, which means they are the heart of the ecological community within their habitat,” says Stuart resident Janeen Mason, curator at Lighthouse ArtCenter. “Protecting panthers in Florida indirectly conserves other threatened and endangered wildlife in the state. It is beyond important to ensure that there are areas that will be protected for them in perpetuity. If they disappear, the system begins to crumble.”
Last year, Mason curated a show at the Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee featuring the work of Stone and Ward, where Ward spoke to legislators about the importance of the Florida Wildlife Corridor, a nearly 18 million–acre network of public and private lands that allows animals to safely travel throughout the state without having to cross highways. In 2022, his production company, Florida Wild, released a film called Path of the Panther, executive produced by Leonardo DiCaprio. Ward set up motion-activated cameras to capture panthers roaming the corridor. The incredible documentary is currently available to watch on Hulu and Disney+.
Mason says that after the Tallahassee show, there was a significant amount of money given to the Florida Wildlife Corridor. “Was it a result of the exhibition? I’d love to think so,” she says. “Carlton is a fabulous speaker and a passionate man.”