Celebrating 30 years of Coast Guard art

30 miles from Punta Gorda, Cuba, by artist Hugh O'Connor

30 miles from Punta Gorda, Cuba: While on patrol, crewmen aboard a small boat from the Coast Guard Cutter Seneca intercept a dangerously overloaded sail freighter carrying Haitians 30 miles north of Punta Gorda, Cuba. Crew members distributed life jackets and then safely transferred the 125 migrants to the Seneca where they were given food, water and basic medical care before being repatriated. U.S. Coast Guard painting by Coast Guard artist Hugh O'Connor.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Coast Guard Art Program. Co-founded by esteemed military artist George Gray in 1981, COGAP and the more than 1,800 works of fine art in its collection are a testament to the rich traditions, history and people of the United States Coast Guard.

Turtle release by artist Frank Gaffney

Turtle Release: A Coast Guard fireman and a biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration prepare to release a sea turtle into warmer waters off the shores of Coast Guard Station Panama City, Fla. Service members from the station began transporting sea turtles from a local marine park after nearly 1,500 became endangered due to colder than normal temperatures in the marine park. Coast Guard painting by Coast Guard artist Frank Gaffney.

“The Coast Guard Art Program was created to record the service in action and to depict its myriad contributions to our country,” said MaryAnn Bader, coordinator of the Coast Guard Art Program. “While pieces received in earlier years tended to portray Coast Guard assets and history, more recent works capture the experience of actual service in the Coast Guard at a very human level.”

Coast Guard art is exhibited in museums, galleries, libraries and Coast Guard facilities across the nation. Pieces from the collection are also prominently displayed in federal buildings including the Pentagon, U.S. embassies and Congress. Collectively, these works of art serve as an outreach tool educating diverse audiences about the service, its missions and the 42,000 men and women who wear the Coast Guard uniform.

“Look into our paintings and we will take you to the edge of danger, bring you the suspense of the unknown, the anxious moments of a search and rescue, to the relief of a successful mission and return home,” said Karen Loew, chair of the COGAP committee of the Salmagundi Club – one of the nation’s most prestigious art and cultural centers and sponsor of the program since its inception.

Mission of Compassion by artist Karen Loew

Mission of Compassion: A Coast Guardsman from Port Security Unit 307 spends time with a young girl during a visit to an orphanage during the 2010 Haiti earthquake response. The PSU provided materials and labor to refurbish and supply the orphanage and spent time visiting the children and staff to boost spirits. U.S. Coast Guard painting by Coast Guard artist Karen Loew.

Next week, the Salmagundi Club will host the acceptance ceremony for the 2011 Coast Guard Art Program Collection. Thirty-one pieces of art by 26 artists from across the country make up this year’s collection. Their works portray many of the service’s missions and take you inside two unprecedented Coast Guard responses – the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010 and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the largest oil spill our nation’s history.

“Bravery is the Coast Guard career,” said Loew. “Recording it for posterity is the duty and honor of each artist. Our works are visual and emotional thank yous to the ever-inspirational Coast Guard.”

You can view and download high-resolution images of the 2011 COGAP collection by clicking here. If you are in New York City this summer and want to see the collection in person, it will be displayed at the Salmagundi Club from July 3 to July 15 and will then move to Federal Hall from July 20 through August 6.

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