Artists in Our National Parks

As an Artist in Residence at Capitol Reef National Park,  I organized a talk about the History of Artists and Art in our National Parks.  When chosen as a residence, one of the “give backs” is to lead a hike, give a presentation, or any number of ways to contribute to the Park.  I presented to a group of visitors some techniques for using their smart phone more successfully.  And, I made a presentation at the Fruita Campground Amphitheater in Capitol Reef, and a public presentation at Mesa Verde National Park.

Artists have contributed to the formation of our parks from the early days of the Hayden Survey in 1871, all the way up till the present day, where the Artist in Residence programs thrive in our Parks.  Thomas Moran, William Henry Jackson, Frederick Dellenbaugh, painted and photographed in the West, as did many others. Today, contemporary photographers and artists contribute to our understanding of our precious National Parks and create images that speak to the preservation and expansion of our Parks.

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Click this link for a full copy of the presentation of Art in Our National Parks.

Contemporary Art in our National Parks

Visit any National Park Service site and you’re bound to see photographers, artists, film makers, musicians, sculptors, writers, inspired and working on-site.   And many visitors use their smart phones for selfies, and bring home memories in our Parks, our Public Lands, and recreation areas.

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Many of our Parks sponsor Plein Air Invitationals and host Artists in the Parks. Capitol Reef joined the list of about 50 National Parks that offer time and support for an Artist in Residence in 2017.  I was honored to be chosen as their first AIR.

Links to contemporary art being created in our Parks

Long-time Alaskan Kim Heacox spent a part of 2012 as one of Denali’s three writers-in-residence, and donated this essay after his experience.

A 2010 residency at Devil’s Tower allowed Chavawn Kelley to experiment with photography, and later inspired her written works here

Kathy Hodge, Artist in Residence.

Here’s a link to my portfolio of Artist Residencies in our Parks.

 

Hillman and Lookout Peaks, with Wizard Island.

My first look at Crater Lake. Artist in Residence, 2015

Annie Spring-Snowmelt

Annie Spring, Crater Lake National Park. ©Kit Frost

Clouds moving over Capitol Reef National Park

Autumn Gold, Capitol Reef National Park. Between 2016 and 2017 I spent about 14 weeks at Capitol Reef. In 2016 I volunteered as an Information Ranger. And in 2017 I was honored to be chosen as the first Artist in Residence in the Park. This image was made during the golden days of autumn in Cap Reef.

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Long House, Mesa Verde National Park. ©Kit Frost, 2017 Artist in Residence

Artist in Residence: Acadia National Park

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The Adventure begins

I don’t like to fly.  It’s inconvenient, stressful, boring, frustrating and leaves me feeling powerless. But, since surgery in March, hip replacement, I’ve driven 3700 miles round trip from Durango to Crater Lake National Park for my first Artist Residency.  I advise against driving long distances one month after surgery!  Even with cruise control, driving was painful, and camping even more challenging.

It’s not that I didn’t prep for the journey.  In fact, I was devoted to physical therapy after surgery.  But choosing to drive with my right hip recovering is what I call self-will to the max.  Although my surgeon (who rocks) gave me the go ahead, in retrospect I could have made a different decision.  I rested after every 75-100 miles and took 8 days to get to Oregon, and I don’t regret a minute of the trip, but learned from it.

Artist in Residence: Crater Lake National Park, May 2015

There's nothing quite like seeing the sky reflected in Crater Lake.

There’s nothing quite like seeing the sky reflected in Crater Lake.

My original plan was to drive up to Crater Lake National Park for the two week Artist in Residence program at the Park and then drive across country to my next gig at Acadia National Park.  The idea was to have my own car, with all my art and photography gear packed, my bike aboard, and camping along the way, resting when needed, really appealed to me.  But then there’s that hip replacement. As a result of a consultation with my mother, all that changed.  Yesterday I flew to Maine.

Air Travel with Camera Gear and Art Supplies

I shipped most of my art supplies, and my carry-on consisted of my camera gear and electronic equipment: macbook pro, battery chargers.  Although I have a carry-on sized for the airlines, the new procedure of checking carry-on at the plane if the overhead bins are small or full is frustrating.  I didn’t want to risk having my camera gear broken, so I stuffed my camera bag and laptop inside my rolling baggage while in the airports: Durango, Denver, Chicago, Portland, and then carried on just the camera bag and laptop, and curbside checked the empty luggage.

In years past, whenever I travelled by air with my camera gear, it wasn’t a big hassle.  I would carry on my camera gear, and check my tripod and luggage, but at $25 per bag it can add up. So I bought a new tripod, and had it shipped to Acadia, instead of adding that to my carry on. My checked luggage also had art supplies, pochade box, oil pastels, tripod head and clothing and shoes.  It was a hassle, the shipping cost me plenty, the final leg of travel was delayed for two hours, but now I am sitting in a motel in Brunswick, Maine.  And the rental car is outside of my room.  I will re-pack today, and head out to Rockport, Maine where I’ll stay with friends for a few days before driving up (down) east to Winter Harbor.

The Interpretive Ranger at Acadia may be able to lend me a bike.  That’s the one thing I was unable to stuff in my carry-on.  And I’ll be at Schoodic Institute from June 5-25 making art, hiking, biking and exploring the secrets of Acadia.  I’m thrilled, excited, honored and ready to roll.

This is what it’s all about

I’ve spent time at the Bar Harbor area of Acadia, brought students to Otter Cliffs and Thunder Hole for photography lessons, but this is the first time I will be at the Schoodic Institute with access to the Winter Harbor (said with a Maine accent) section of the Park.  I will be housed in a fully equipped, apartment at Schoodic.  I look forward to the inspiration of the land, sea, weather, and sky.

Follow along on this excellent art adventure.  I’ll post photos and time lapse videos and tell the stories as I join a long line of artists who practiced their craft in recognition and support of our National Parks.

Here’s a link to my recent series of blog posts

And some current images, created during June 2015, Artist Residency, Acadia National Park

An article about the Artist in Residence Program at Acadia.

The Road to becoming an Artist in Residence

My first view of Crater Lake included making a time lapse sequence of 300 still photos along the rim of the Caldera ©Kit Frost

My first view of Crater Lake included making a time lapse sequence of 300 still photos along the rim of the Caldera ©Kit Frost

The Adventure Begins in Crater Lake

What an understatement! The actual path to these two plus weeks as the Artist in Residence began long ago.  As I retired from teaching, moved to Durango and built up my Chase the Light Photography Adventures, I planned and envisioned a life of travel, art, photography, and exploration.  One of the dreams I’m pursuing is to spend serious time in our National Parks, as a Resident Artist.  Many of our National Parks have an application process available to established and emerging artists. The program offers time and accommodations in the most beautiful places. These are not paid gigs in the formal sense, but a real opportunity to spend quality time and follow my bliss.

In 2013, I began the process of research and writing necessary to apply.  The first priority: establishing a timeline for applications, organizing site specific portfolios, writing essays and gathering letters of recommendation.

Here’s an online site listing all the National Parks offering art residencies.

After review of each Park’s program and taking a look at my motivations to be at a specific park, I set deadlines and began writing proposals. Each application is a challenge to write, demanding of time and is a huge commitment, requiring a thorough examination of my portfolio for the “right” kind of images to send.  Most of the applications require a 1-2 page statement of intent, a small sampling of  4-8 images, letters of recommendations, and curriculum vitae.  And all applications include a proposal for the project to be completed during the residency.

The residencies provide an opportunity to devote 2-4 weeks’ time in a cabin or other rustic accommodations, time devoted to making art, and sharing that process with visitors.  Artists chosen for this prestigious and competitive award are also required to make a public presentation while at the park, and to donate one piece of art within a year of their residency.

A list of current and past applications:It helps to be “thick skinned” and not take the application process personally.  Just as with juried exhibitions, there is a standard of excellence in the level of artists applying, and the “right” person for each residency, the right image to fit an exhibition theme. Some review committees will provide comments, while others just don’t have the time to respond to the more than 250 artists competing for a few residencies a year.  This process is highly competitive and responding to deadlines and following the procedures is imperative.  One reviewer told me that the additional letters of recommendation I submitted were cumbersome and too much for the committee to read. Other park’s do not respond other than a letter of thanks (no, I’m not calling it a letter of rejection)

I’ve applied to all the following:

  • Acadia NP
  • Crater Lake NP
  • Glacier NP
  • Grand Canyon NP
  • Great Basin NP
  • Great Smoky Mountains NP
  • Isle Royale NP
  • Joshua Tree NP
  • North Cascades NP
  • Petrified Forest NP
  • Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
  • Zion NP

And in 2015 I’ve been offered residencies at Crater Lake and Acadia.  I gladly accepted.  I have submitted 2016 applications to Joshua Tree, Durango Arts.org, and will meet the deadline for Zion in July.  In 2016 I was offered residencies at Bighorn Canyon in Wyoming, Glacier National Park, in Montana and Mesa Verde in Colorado.

I’ve posted some images and blogged about my experiences and inspirations while a visiting artist. Join me on this wonderful, creative, journey

Fall Color is peaking in Zion National Park

As you can see by the scene below, the cottonwoods in and along Highway 9 through Zion were in full bloom, and lots are just past prime. But there are plenty of opportunities to get your “fix” of fall color in Zion. The Riverwalk, and the trees along the Virgin River are past prime fall color, but go ahead and think about isolating a few examples of bloom. It snowed up on the Kolob Terrace Road but if you can get to Zion when the storms are rolling in or out you’ll be treated to great big skies. These images were created on my recent trip to Zion, October 27-November 1, 2013

What do you think?  Compare these two images and comment on the "right time" to press the shutter. ©Kit Frost What do you think? Compare these two images and comment on the “right time” to press the shutter. ©Kit Frost

I climbed high along the Watchman trail, and set up this image.  Two hours later the light I was hoping painted across the scene.  Patience people.  ©Kit Frost I climbed high along the Watchman trail, and set up this image. Two hours later the light I was hoping painted across the scene. Half the fun for me is planning the photograph, arriving at the location, and enjoying the light as it changes over time.©Kit Frost

Check out my other blog about photographing BIG Scenes

Learn to work with Shadows in your Photos

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In the two examples I used the shadows to form a frame around the subject. I asked a friend who was hiking ahead of me to stop in the light, so i could show scale as well as shape in the photo. In the other example, late day light, or lack of, in the canyon, gave me an opportunity to play with the abstract forms of dark, light, blue sky, and contrail too. Try it. The late afternoon light and short days gives us lots of chances to practice. Meter for detail in the highlight and underexpose, that will give you deep, dark, shadows and you can always choose to “open up” using the fill light or shadow fulchrum in Lightroom if you want more detail visible.

High Altitude Mountains, Colorado

All images ©Kit Frost, all rights reserved