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Seaside Gallery Owner Raises $50,000 for Conservation Through Nature Photography

Denise Fairweather and Neal Maine at Fairweather House & Gallery during Seaside’s First Saturday Art Walk in December
(Photo by Linda Fenton-Mendenhall)


Art has the power to create transformation in numerous ways. At Fairweather House & Gallery, owner Denise Fairweather has used the breathtaking nature photography of Neal Maine to raise funds that bolster coastal conservation.

After selling Neal’s artwork for nearly 10 years and donating half the proceeds to North Coast Land Conservancy, she recently hit the $100,000 mark—which amounts to $50,000 for the organization.

“It’s an incredible contribution,” Neal says of Denise’s long-term commitment to the land trust.

Neal, the founding director of NCLC, had been doing smaller shows on the coast when Denise asked him to exhibit at Fairweather. About a year later, she decided to forgo taking commissions on his pieces and instead set aside the funds for the land trust, with the rest going to Neal to cover the cost of materials.

Denise was especially moved by the tragedy of the fire that destroyed NCLC’s offices at Circle Creek Conservation Center in 2012. She’d experienced a similar hardship and received support from the community, which reaffirmed for her the importance of coming together and helping one another out.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without a network and connecting with others,” she says. Thinking of a way to support the land trust, she recalls approaching Neal with her idea and saying, “I can do this.”

Meanwhile, this initiative gave Neal—who had started mentoring his grandson, Michael Wing—a “good excuse to go out and do photography every day.” Michael is now an adult and can’t tag along with Neal as much, but both of their photos remain on display and available for purchase, and Neal regularly takes replacement pictures to the gallery.

Although he’s captured incredible wildlife photos from faraway places, the images of local wildlife and landscapes between Astoria and Cannon Beach seem to connect particularly well with those who visit the gallery.

“What worked best was our backyard,” Neal says. However, it’s not too surprising. “We live in paradise,” he adds. “We just need to hold onto it.”

While the pair had planned to stop at $50,000, that milestone came and went about five years ago. When it did, Denise wanted to continue. “I said, ‘Let’s see how far it can go.’”

Along with raising money for NCLC, Denise views this initiative as an opportunity to build connections between patrons and the natural beauty of the Oregon Coast and plant seeds of inspiration for other business owners and individuals who are seeking ways to contribute to its preservation. Her motto for the gallery, which appears on each thank-you letter they send out, ends with the phrase, “We forward our legacy,” and that’s the mindset she embraces.

She has a love for nature—particularly being down in the dirt, bare-handed, gardening and working the earth.

“I’m a gardener, I’m a farmer,” she says. “I have to plant. I have to dig.”

Living on the Oregon Coast, she feels fortunate to be surrounded by trees and water and earth.

“It’s so healing to see the changing seasons and the changing weather,” she says.

Her passion for and commitment to the natural world is part of the legacy she hopes to leave. After all, she adds, “I want my legacy to be a good one.”


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