One of DUC’s most renowned artists and tireless fundraisers is set to call it a career at the end of the year. Ken Ferris, DUC’s manager of volunteer and corporate fundraising for northern B.C., is retiring after helping raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations through his fundraising efforts and his art.
It was a request for donation almost 40 years ago that initially brought Ferris into the DUC fold.
A friend asked Ferris if he would be willing to donate a painting for a DUC fundraising dinner in Vancouver in 1981. That act of generosity touched off Ferris’ passion for conservation that led to his almost four decades with DUC, including a 19-year career that is coming to an end on December 31, 2020.
Shortly after his initial donation, Ferris’s artwork quickly became some of the most sought-after pieces at local fundraising events.
In 1984, he was named DUC’s Artist of the Year. Ferris says that while the recognition for his work is gratifying, his passion for his work stemmed from his desire to contribute to the greater need of the community rather than a pat on the back.
“Ducks Unlimited Canada, and the work they do, is just something that I firmly believed in,” says Ferris, from his home in Prince George. As an artist, you get some recognition and it’s wonderful, a feather in the cap. But that’s not why I did it. It did it because I support wetland conservation and I believe in the work.”
Commitment to conservation through art
His talent with the paintbrush certainly helped DUC do the work. Prints of his 1984 painting were auctioned off across North America, raising almost $1 million in donations. Also, Ferris was the winner of the Wildlife Habitat Conservation Stamp competition in 1993 and 2000, and he was selected as DUC’s Waterfowl Stamp and Print Artist in 2020. He was also one of 30 world-acclaimed artists whose work was included in Waterfowl of North America, a limited-edition book featuring full-size art prints commissioned to celebrate DUC’s 50th anniversary.
“Ken has introduced countless people to the importance of conservation, not only through his position with DUC but through his amazing artwork,” says Karla Guyn, DUC’s CEO. “Anyone who has seen Ken’s paintings can attest to his artistic talents, which draw people into the natural world and remind them why it’s so precious. We’re extremely fortunate that he’s shared many of his award-winning works with DUC, raising thousands of dollars for conservation across the country. All of us are incredibly proud of the many things Ken’s done for wetlands and wildlife over his productive career.”
Sarah Nathan, manager of provincial operations for DUC in B.C. says Ferris’ contributions to conservation are more than just the money he helped raise.
“Ken is incredibly passionate about the work we do and helped unite and build stronger communities because of that dedication,” says Nathan. “You see it in his artwork, his relationship with his wife Jasmine, and everyone on the volunteer committees who came in contact with him. We are so grateful.”
Through his donations of art to DUC, totalling almost $300,000, Ferris is recognized at the DUC Emerald Teal level for his support.
Building relationships across northern B.C.
Art was just part of his contribution to DUC’s success. Ferris put the paintbrush down and “took a real job” in 2000 when he took on the role of customer services representative for DUC in northern B.C. A few years later. he took on the position of manager of volunteer and corporate fundraising in the same region.
He said his early days of organizing fundraisers and banquets helped build strong community relationships and helped bring conservation to the forefront of every city, village and town he visited.
“You really do form wonderful relationships with people that you get to see year after year,” says Ferris. “It’s been a great ride, that’s for sure.”
Ferris is quick to point out that any success he’s had on the job is a result of the support he’s had from his wife, Jasmine.
“She’s been with me every step of the way. She probably attended close to 300 events over the course of my career with Ducks. She was always willing to lend a hand wherever it was needed. She was very instrumental and very supportive over these last 18 years. I couldn’t have done it without her.”
Ferris also says he had tremendous support from Manda Hanson, who led the administrative duties on fundraising events.
“She was incredible at closing the books on an event. We were probably the best team in Canada at getting our books done. It was her hard work behind the scenes that allowed me to be able to go out from community to community and build those relationships,” says Ferris.
Upon retirement, he says he hoping to step back and take up more time for his art. He says he has enough projects in mind to keep him busy for years to come but does see one issue at hand.
”I’m running out of room in my house,” he laughs.