Winner declared in duck stamp competition, unveiling next week

Published 6:59 pm Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Hailing from 20 states, 36 gorgeous works of art lined tables along the wall of the Washington Civic Center Tuesday, each depicting one of five species of native waterfowl in their natural habitat.

One by one, a panel of expert judges, assembled by the Washington Tourism Development Authority, sorted through the collection, eventually whittling it down to five winners, with first prize earning a spot on the 2020 North Carolina Waterfowl Conservation Stamp.

With his depiction of a tundra swan, Adam Grimm, of Wallace, South Dakota, earned that honor for the coming year, as well as the $7,000 cash prize for first place.

Grimm is no stranger to success in wildlife art competitions. By entering various competitions throughout the United States, he’s been able to turn his passion for painting wildlife into a full time career. He’s won multiple waterfowl conservation stamp competitions in states across the U.S., including this year’s contest in Louisiana.

His work has also won the Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp competition twice, once in 1999, making him the youngest ever to win the contest at 21, and then again in 2013. Grimm was also recently named the 2021 Ducks Unlimited Artist of the Year.

“I’m tickled,” Grimm said of his win. “I wish I could have seen all the other entries, but obviously I’m out here in South Dakota. Entering these contests, it’s always fun to be able to see all the other artwork. I’m a little bit envious of the people that were there and able to look through everything. I don’t envy the task of trying to pick one from all the various paintings, but I’m thrilled and honored to be selected.”

In judging the competition, every detail becomes important. From setting the painting in the appropriate habitat to anatomical details like the placement of feathers, every painting was scrutinized for attractiveness, creativity and composition.

The panel of five judges selected for the task, however, had the knowledge to do so. This years species included the tundra swan, blue-winged teal, ruddy duck, bufflehead and lesser scaup. This years judges were:

  • Mike Lubbock, executive director of Sylvan Heights Bird Park in Scotland Neck
  • Kyle Dixon, a founding member of the N.C. Wildlife Artist Society
  • Chris Toppings, president of the Eastern N.C. chapter of Delta Waterfowl
  • Betsy Kane, Washington City Council member and avid birder
  • Ivie Elliott, a lifetime member of the International Waterfowl Carvers Association

B.H. Powell, who has been the master of ceremonies for the judging since the competition came to Washington more than a decade ago, says he takes pride in the ethics of the competition. He was also involved in the federal competition for a decade before that.

“The most important thing is for this competition to be ethical and honest,” Powell said. “When I come down here, I have no idea who is going to be a judge. The judges don’t know each other. I don’t have any idea who painted what.”

Distilled through three rounds of scrutiny by the judges, the top five pieces of art will be displayed during an unveiling event next Wednesday, starting at 5 p.m. at the Washington Civic Center. The public is invited to attend.

After that, the winners will be prominently displayed next weekend during the Carolina Wildlife Arts Festival at the Turnage Theatre.

Overall, WTDA Marketing Assistant Paula Stephenson, who helps organize the contest each year, says the event is good for Washington, touching on the area’s heritage of sportsmanship.

“It’s a real honor for Washington to be the town in North Carolina that gets to hold this contest, with the emphasis not only on wildlife art, but the importance of waterfowl in this area.” Stephenson said. “That includes art, hunting, taxidermy, bird watching, any number of things that are big pieces of recreation in the area.”