provided to The Santiva Chronicle
Joseph “Joe” Hautman is the second federal duck stamp artist ever to take first place six times, most recently in 2022 during the 2023-2024 Federal Duck Stamp Contest. The only other artist to score that many wins? His brother James “Jim” Hautman in 2021.
Brother Robert “Bob” has taken first place three times, and in 2022 placed third in the fierce competition. All three brothers will make a guest appearance – a rare occasion for them to appear together professionally — and exhibit their work during the inaugural Art in the Wild free, two-day event at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island Oct. 21 and 22, hosted cooperatively with the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge (DDWS).
Considering that more than 100 artists typically compete each year in the Federal Duck Stamp Contest, and that 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. The three Minnesota brothers even made the script for the 1996 hit comedic movie Fargo.
Each year, “Ding” Darling hosts the winning duck stamp artist in October to celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week and the birthday of the refuge’s namesake, the first duck stamp artist in 1934. Artist-cartoonist Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling, in fact, is largely responsible for the Federal Duck Stamp Program. Considered the most successful conservation program in U.S. history, the duck stamp program has purchased six million acres of now-protected wetlands since its inception.
Joe Hautman’s 2023-2024 winning design depicts a trio of tundra swans.
“In 2016, I won the Federal Duck Stamp contest with a pair of flying trumpeter swans,” he said. “So, this year, with tundra swans as one of the eligible species, I wanted to change it up and do a design involving sitting swans. I came up with four or five design options with sitting or standing swans, but, in spite of my plan, I went back and compared those to a composition that I had for a full-sized painting of flying swans, and I liked something about the dynamic birds and the scenery in the flying painting. When I adapted that to the smaller format for the contest, the flying swans looked like the best stamp design and it ended up winning the contest!”
Hautman takes his refuge appearance a step further this year for the inaugural Art in the Wild Day on Saturday, Oct. 21. In addition to a 10 a.m. presentation that day, followed by a duck stamp signing, the refuge will debut an exhibition of the Hautmans’ original work in the “Ding” Darling Visitor & Education Center Auditorium. The exhibition will remain in the auditorium for free daily viewing (closing date to be announced through Oct. 29.
“It’s always such an honor and pleasure to visit with longtime friends and spend time at ‘Ding,’” said Joe Hautman, who lives in Plymouth, Minn. “It’s one of my favorite parts about winning the contest. I’m doubly honored this year to be exhibiting my work at the first-ever Art in the Wild event, along with my brothers.”
On Oct. 21, the day’s activities kick off at 9:15 a.m. with an official SanCap Chamber ribbon-cutting of the refuge’s new flex-space, open-air pavilion, The Roost.
The refuge’s 2023-2024 Artist in Residence Jacqui Roch will be on hand to lead a community mural-painting project, plus expect a pottery demonstration by Tim Smith, numerous other art demos and hands-on activities, the announcement of the 2023 “Ding” Darling Amateur Photo Contest winners, treats to celebrate Darling’s birthday, and other surprises through 3 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 22, brings a Paint-Out event that starts at 7 a.m. on Wildlife Drive with plein-air artists creating works that will go on display in the Visitor & Education Center for visitors to vote for their favorite during the rest of October. DDWS will host live music and a puppet show at The Roost until 2:30 p.m. Along with all activities, admission to Wildlife Drive will be free both days.
“The Hautmans are the rock stars of the federal duck stamp world,” said Supervisory Refuge Ranger Toni Westland. “They are the true ‘duck dynasty.’ We are beyond excited to celebrate their big wins and see their art hanging in the auditorium to share with all our visitors. It really is the crowning attraction of the event.”
“This is a rare opportunity to acquire Hautman original paintings or duck stamp prints,” said DDWS Associate Executive Director Ann-Marie Wildman, who oversees refuge exhibitions. “All three brothers are bringing smaller original artwork, some of which will feature Southwest Florida bird portraits. There will be around 10 to 12 originals available for sale and perhaps a few more for exhibit only. Proceeds from the sale of artwork will benefit the conservation work at the refuge.”
DDWS seeks sponsors for this year’s Art in the Wild. For more information, contact April Boehnen at email@example.com. To learn more about Art in the Wild sponsorship and schedule of events, visit dingartinthewild.com.