Clyde Butcher and the Mission for Myakka River

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BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY WEDNESDAY PHILANTHROPY EDITION WEDNESDAY FEB 13, 2019

Ask Clyde Butcher what the Myakka River means to him, and he responds first with a heavy sigh and a pregnant pause, before firing back with a question of his own: “What does the Earth mean to you?”

Acclaimed in his own time, Butcher has been photographing the Myakka River region for going on 20 years now, by his reckoning, and the Old Florida ecosystem still holds a special draw, bringing him back to its wilds season after season. “It’s a primeval place where you can get away from the hectic-ness of civilization,” he says. “And people need to have places they can go where nature influences, not industry.” And with his latest photographic exhibition, Myakka River: A Florida Treasure, the artist teams up with the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast to raise awareness for the region’s protection.

“We’re trying to bring some awareness to the beauty and fragility of it,” says Butcher, who will be showing photographs taken from his entire 20-year exploration, from 1999 to just three months ago. Through his work, viewers will venture through the region’s five distinct ecosystems, and experience everything from the flowers abloom in springtime to the flocking birds of winter. “It’s an ever-changing place,” he says. For his part, Butcher prefers Myakka River in the summer, when the waters flood and the resurrection ferns fan green and full. And between the rushing river and the tree canopy, “it’s the coolest place in Sarasota County.”

Overlooked too, says Butcher. “You get wrapped up in city stuff, and you forget about the world,” he says. And then when people do leave their concrete confines, it’s almost always for the beach, not a drive inward to explore the rarities of Myakka River. “You can get beaches anywhere,” he says. “You can’t get places like Myakka just anywhere. Get out there. See it. Feel it. Be there.”

Myakka River: A Florida Treasure opens this Friday, February 15, at the Clyde Butcher Gallery on St. Armands Circle. Butcher will be in attendance from 1pm to 5pm for the opening, and the following day at the same times.

Pictured: "Myakka Swamp" by Clyde Butcher.

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