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University art students make and sell mugs to benefit wildlife refuge

ORONO - A group of students at the University of Maine in Orono is putting their art skills to the test. Over the past several weeks, the pupils in Constant Albertson's advanced art education course have been making ceramic mugs that they hope to sell to benefit the Hirundo Wildlife Refuge in Alton, a 2,400-acre nature preserve just 10 miles away from the University campus.

"They did research on issues in the local community and narrowed it down to two different ones," said Constant Albertson. "They interviewed the directors of those two and asked what their needs were and how they would use the money and eventually narrowed it down to Hirundo." 

The Hirundo land was deeded to UMaine in 1983 and is home to otters, birds and insects. It's also a great place for the public to hike, canoe, snowshoe or go cross-country skiing. 

"It's important we get the message out that we're not humans who have an environment, we're humans in an environment and we're just one of the many organisms that dwell there," explained Abigail LeBlanc, a Brewer resident and fourth-year art education major at the University. 

LeBlanc and her classmates have made a total of 250 mugs which they plan to sell on campus for $10 each. The funds raised will be used for educational programs at Hirundo and to buy trail and digital cameras to document the wildlife on the property, according to LeBlanc.

"They've got bird houses and beaver dams, a fox hut and a lot of things going on there that they want to document," said LeBlanc.

Which is why the art students decided each of their hand-crafted mugs should depict some image of nature.

"No mug is the same. They all have different shapes, handles and different pictures on it," said LeBlanc. "One of us likes to do birds, fish, leaves. We have some abstract designs in there too."

And since everyone, whether they're a student, educator or just a nature lover, enjoys a good beverage, Albertson's class thought making and selling mugs would be a successful fundraiser.

"It was finding a quick and easy way to reach a general population through something we create and  everyone has their beverage of choice whether it's tea or coffee so that was something everyone can relate to," explained LeBlanc. 

Mugs will be for sale for cash only in The Memorial Union on Earth Day, April 22 from 12-4 p.m., the New Balance Student Recreation Center during the Hope Festival on Saturday, April 27 from 11 a.m.- 4 p.m. or The Memorial Union on Maine Day, May 1 from 12-4 p.m. Donations can also be made directly to the Hirundo Wildlife Refuge at www.hirundomaine.org/support or by mailing a contribution to Hirundo Wildlife Trust, P.O. Box 266, Orono, ME 04473.

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