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Artist Grainger McKoy Visits Friends of Nemours

The Nemours Wildlife Foundation is based at Nemours Plantation in the ACE Basin, situated in Beaufort County at the intersection of the Combahee River and Highway 17. Each year their Board of Directors invites a guest speaker to educate others about their own outdoor experiences, reinforcing the legacy of Eugene Nemours duPont III who founded this 10,000-acre conservation experiment. Renowned sculptor and wildlife artist Grainger McKoy grew up in Sumter, but his considerable talent for carving avian life allows him to fly into the rarified air of being in demand on an international scale.

The weather on Saturday October 21 was sunny and bright, with unseasonable warm temperatures. Board President and CEO Ernie Wiggers gave an update of activities at the Nemours Wildlife Foundation. He recognized two professors from Clemson in the audience, Greg Yarrow and Bob Jones, before announcing the creation of a new scholarship. “The Eugene and Laura duPont scholarship at Clemson University will go to an intern working in the field of wildlife conservation,” said Wiggers. “Part of our mission here is to provide a place for interns to conduct studies in the Lowcountry, and each intern here today has a display set up to share their findings with you.”

“For the second year in a row, hurricane damage and high water left our impoundment dikes in need of repairs,” said Wiggers. “These repairs are now complete, and we continue to see a wide array of birds using these areas such as waterfowl and shorebirds. One student, Richard Coen, is currently using Lydar mapping to reveal where historic rice fields are located along the S.C. coast and points inland.” Another example of Nemours Wildlife Foundation activities revealed a partnership with he Coastal Community Foundation to fund the construction of a trailer for use by the Outdoor Dream Foundation.

Speaker Grainger McKoy approached the podium and quickly found out that first page of his lecture notes corresponding to his slide show were missing. Like a bird taking flight, they were simply gone, and he closed his eyes briefly and then launched into an engaging tale about his life. When his hour-long talk concluded, including inspirational stories and anecdotal notes, one patron told me that Mr. McKoy needs to lose his notes more often.

“It’s good to be back in this neck of the woods with the Friends of Nemours, because this is an area that gave me a lot of support when I was a young man,” said McKoy. “After finishing college at Clemson I lived in Beaufort for a time and gladly listened to mentor Gilbert Maggioni to try my hand at carving. We were both avid outdoorsmen but he lived a carefree life as a painter and sculptor and that appealed to me at the time. But most important he taught me the value of hard work and attention to detail. It was around May of 1970, living in Beaufort, that I made my first sale, it was a semi-palmated plover carving bought by Ms. Chase from Twickenham Plantation.”

It’s hard to believe that McKoy’s career moved ahead quickly and that included art exhibits in New York City. McCoy came to love the Lowcountry and lived on Wadmalaw Island for a time in the 1980’s. Since then his distinguished 35-year career as a commissioned artist has taken him to the heights of success. “Every sculpture in my life has a story, and each one is a measure of my own growth,” said McKoy. “Just like how the stories from places in the ACE Basin, like this property and others, are still evolving.”

“A sculpture of mine called Covey Rise is on display at Brookgreen Gardens, and my Recovery Stroke sculpture of a bird wing can be found at Hollings Cancer Center.” Many of his sculptures are now at home in the finest plantations all around the South, but you won’t here about that from McKoy without him repeating that he has been very blessed.

The Friends of Nemours enjoyed fellowship and a catered meal on the lawn before departing. Some elected to take a hay ride through the property in hopes of seeing some of the bird life celebrated in McKoy’s artwork. Mike McShane is Vice Chairman of the Board for the Nemours Wildlife Foundation and he presented McKoy with a leather-bound edition of the Rice and Ducks book by Ducks Unlimited. The final note in the program thanks neighboring private landowners who provide project assistance and cooperation, showing that Nemours Wildlife Foundation recognizes the continuous efforts required to provide for conservation in the ACE Basin.

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at LowcountryOutdoors.com

Jeff Dennis, Contributor (300 Posts)

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com