Artist in Residence Programs
Making art accessible to all, developing ways to use artistic means to enhance the experience of nature’s majesty. At Grand Canyon's North Rim, I taught 2, hands-on programs on the sundeck of the lodge. The Park Service put up a shelter, some tarps to protect the patio, and a couple of tables. The shelter kept us comfortable, and the curious were drawn-in just by it being there. The tarps allayed the Park Service’s fear of damaging a historic building with spilled dye. We got around 20 visitors each time. (no dye was spilled)
The first program sensitized visitors to the colors in the vista before us. I organized them into the red team, the blue and neutral team, and the green team. We used paint store swatches to match against the scene. Each team came up with 3 or 4 colors which I mixed using my dye. (I had mixed up some base colors from my palette experiments of the previous week – so I only needed to adjust them to match – this saved a lot of waiting-around time.) Once our 2 p.m. color palette was ready, each visitor painted the colors onto "bookmarks" of watercolor paper to take home as a remembrance. I also printed the scene lightly onto watercolor paper so that they could paint-over it later. I suggested markers, acrylic paints or watercolors. I was pleased that so many were glad they took the time to tune-into color as a way of appreciating the view in a new way.
In the second program, visitors began a collaborative silk painting. (The finished work was donated to the park.) I printed a simplified photograph of the vista before us onto a 13 x 19 inch piece of silk. I used the color palette of silk dyes the visitors from the first program selected. Each participant got a paintbrush and in turn painted parts of the sky and the cliff shadows onto the silk. Once the image was broken down into shapes and areas, the painting was easy. I was surprised at how successful they were. We had children as young as 8 in the program. It was easy for them to do the sky in a wet-on-wet manner. The adults did the shadow shapes. I got several of the participants to sign their names so that I could give them credit for their work when the piece was donated. The education coordinator hung the finished piece I donated in her office as an example of inspired artist programming.
On my own in the park…..I visited all of the overlooks and day-hiked most of the trails. I went to every geology talk I could. I completed my color and time experiments. I trained my eye in composing the “grand landscape”. I spent a lot of time in silence and gratitude.
The images that have or will find their way into completed works of art were gifts. No matter how many miles of trail I walked, or how strategically I planned for the proper angle of light, the images were still gifts.
Programs Back Home
One of the requirements of my residency was to make a presentation about the park and the artist-in-residence program in my home community. The Ann Arbor District Library graciously agreed to host and to promote my talk. I used my painting, "Colors of Time" to illustrate both geologic time and being present throughout the day as the light changed the colors of the landscape. Other programs for various community groups followed, The Sierra Club, a creative writing course at the University of Michigan, and 2 of our local camera clubs.
Colors of Time Silk Painting
“Colors of Time” is huge: 4 feet tall by 71/2 feet wide. I enjoyed discovering patterns in the lines and shadows that must have inspired Native American art and graphic sensibilities. As I let my imagination flow, so did my brushstrokes. When I looked at my color/time studies, I decided on the image with 8 a.m. shadows. However, from my color studies, I found the greatest variety of colors culminated between 2 and 4 p.m. I found that greens began to differentiate around 10 a.m. At noon, the magentas arrived. Between 2 and 4 in the afternoon, the reds expanded into peaches, mauves, cranberries, rusts, and oranges plus the yellows of the sandstone sprang into view. So, my piece, “Colors of Time” used the photo from 8 a.m. and the color palette from mid afternoon. I used many of the same colors the visitors chose in my first program.
To inspire folks to enjoy their park lands, to metaphorically “dip their brushes” by using artistic means (music, words, images, constructions) to tune into nature, and to become stewards of the environment and supporters and protectors of these national treasures.