Above: Sally Eppstein with the Blue Heron totem; photo by Gordon Certain
The Blue Heron Nature Preserve, located off Roswell Road in Buckhead, offers both natural and artistic beauty to visitors. The preserve’s unassuming driveway leads to 30 acres of meadows, creeks, floodplains and wetlands. Mill Creek and Nancy Creek run through the property, and visitors walk along several trails to wildlife viewing stations.
About four or five times a year there’s artwork on display in the gallery, thanks to Sally Wansboro Eppstein, the preserve’s art director. Exhibitions she’s pulled together include work by local sculptors and the Georgia Women’s Caucus for Art, and photographs displayed in collaboration with Atlanta Celebrates Photography. An annual six-week outdoor art installation is centered around Earth Day weekend.
“Having art outside, as opposed to having it in a gallery, is freeing, free, fun and challenging,” said Eppstein, who is an artist herself. She came to her role as art director after she installed a totem on the property in 2014 and Nancy Jones, the founder and now retired executive director, asked her to join the team.
Eppstein’s personal work has evolved throughout the years, from an emphasis on jewelry and painting to larger-than-life totems. After some time, she began to focus mainly on the imagery of feathers and their patterns, colors and shapes.
“I love how each feather has an elegant beauty with its delicate features,” she said.
Nature has long been the source of Eppstein’s creativity, and she credits her childhood spent just down the street from a facility now known as the Hidden Forest Equestrian Center in Augusta. “The happiest times in my childhood were playing in those woods discovering the wild muscadines, frogs, turtles, the smell of the pines…with my friends or in solitude,” she said.
As Eppstein developed her style and incorporated new techniques and forms of media, she has continually embraced bright, bold, energetic and fun palettes. “I like to describe my art as Pop Art for the natural world,” she said.
Currently, she’s focusing on a new body of large-scale native flowers and wildlife by the name of “Going Native” and recently completed a sculpture of a Brown-eyed Susan flower and butterfly.
It was thanks to an inspirational outdoor art installation class taught by Brian Rust at Augusta State University, and later an artist workshop at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, that Eppstein was inspired to “go big.” She was encouraged to do more public art when she saw the success of Art on the BeltLine, which exhibits free, temporary art installations that include sculpture, murals and photography along Atlanta’s BeltLine.
Over the years, there have been times that Eppstein’s career as an artist has taken a back seat to work or family obligations. Now that her son is about to leave for college, she’s gearing up to fully devote herself to artwork again.
She said that she has been surrounded by people who support her creativity. Her parents enrolled her in art classes at the local YMCA at an early age. Married to an engineer, she cites his unwavering assistance as being one of the key factors that allows her to work in a large scale and help her with logistics and troubleshooting.
“I believe that if my husband was not so busy he’d love to help me 100 percent of the time,” she said. “I’m so grateful to have such a supportive partner.”
Blue Heron Nature Preserve Spring Events
- March 31 & April 29, 7:30-8:30 p.m.
- Get a different view of the preserve as the shadows lengthen and dusk rolls in. The hike is held through the Woodland Loop in March, and through Emma Wetlands in April.
The Art of Nature
- April 20 through June 1
- Local artists exhibit work inspired by nature, in nature. Walk the trails of the Woodland Loop and experience art in the trees and around every corner.
Earth Day Celebration
- April 21
- Gardeners of every experience level are invited to buy seedlings of native plants and get gardening tips from local garden clubs and gardeners. This event is held annually on the Saturday closest to Earth Day.
- April 27
- Visit the preserve for a relaxing hike among the trees.
To learn more about artwork and programming at the Blue Heron Nature Preserve, go to bhnp.org/the-arts, call 404-946-6394 or visit the Preserve at 4055 Roswell Rd. NE, Atlanta 30342. It’s free!