provided to The Santiva Chronicle
At a special reception on Oct. 21 during the inaugural Art in the Wild weekend event at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, the refuge and “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge (DDWS) presented the Hautman brothers, famed wildlife artists, with the esteemed Brush of Excellence Award.
In February 2015, Sam Koltinsky, filmmaker for the America’s Darling documentary about the life of Jay Darling, jointly presented DDWS and the refuge with a framed and mounted paintbrush once used by artist and political cartoonist Darling – paint smudges, fingerprints, and all. DDWS partially supported the film.
Koltinsky charged “Ding” Darling with the responsibility to similarly honor artistic individuals or organizations who have demonstrated considerable achievements with their artistic talents and have had significant impact on the success of DDWS or conservation in general. Wildlife sculptor and DDWS emeritus board member Jim Sprankle received the first Brush of Excellence Award from DDWS and the refuge in October 2017.
Since that time, Hurricane Ian destroyed the original Darling paintbrush award. In its place, “Ding” Darling jointly presented Jim, Joe, and Bob Hautman with the award in name. The three brothers from Minnesota have collectively won first place in the Federal Duck Stamp competition 15 times – most recently Joe in the 2022 contest.
Considering more than 100 artists typically compete each year in the Federal Duck Stamp Contest, and winners are not allowed to enter for the following three years, the Hautmans’ accomplishments have made a hallowed name for them in wildlife art circles nationwide. The three Minnesota brothers even made the script for the 1996 hit comedic movie Fargo.
DDWS Executive Director Ann-Marie Wildman presented each of the Hautmans with an inscribed award in the shape of a brush tip recognizing the trio as the second award recipient.
“The Brush of Excellence Award is a prestigious award reserved for the finest artists whose conservation efforts influence the world they live in,” Wildman said at the presentation. “Much like ‘Ding’ Darling, all three of the Hautmans will leave a lasting impression on the art and conservation world.”
Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling was a political cartoonist for the Des Moines Register and won two Pulitzer Prizes for this work. His work spans more than 50 years and was syndicated in over 100 newspapers. He began visiting Sanibel and Captiva islands in the 1930s and is responsible for the creation of a wildlife refuge here. As the first head of the U.S. Biological Survey, the forerunner to today’s U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, he was instrumental in creating the Federal Duck Stamp Program and designed the first duck stamp.