Back to the Badlands. Pondering Upon Time and Significance
Arriving at Bandlands National Park

Badlands National Park Artist Residency: Thoughts on Ways to Support the Interpretive Staff

Wall Story Time Photo: Artist, Judy Thompson, Ranger Ed, and Beemer helped local pre-schoolers learn about the Badlands at the Wall Public Library.

There is clearly a role for artists in both enhancing the visitor experience of the park and for connecting park resources to its audiences.  As an experiment, I was asked to informally staff the visitor center desk on a Saturday afternoon during my spring 2014 residency.  I partnered with ranger, Alison, who served as the main visitor contact and helped to legitimize my role with signage and a facebook post.   So, without a uniform or formal designation (badge, name tag), I threw out a line to see what I could catch.  I'm listing my interactions here to share some possibilities for engaging visitors.

The set-up:  I stood in front of the desk near the entrance to the Ben Reifel Visitor Center between noon and 4 pm, greeting and engaging visitors based upon their interests.  At 3 pm, I made a short presentation on "Improving  your Photography of the Badlands".


  1. Artist-in-Residence program
  2. Artist, Jessica Bryant's exhibit at the Dahl Museum in Rapid City, SD about the seldom visited South Unit of the Park.  I included a recommendation for Park Superintendent, Eric Brunnemann upcoming presentation at the Dahl regarding the status of plans for the Nation's first Tribal National Park.
  3. A continuous slide show of my photos highlighting beautiful aspects of the Balands landscape, suggesting photo possibilities for visitors
  4. Introduction to my digital silk painting medium and processes
  5. Scenic possibilities and favorite hikes, tying-in with factual background from Ranger, Alison on what visitors might be seeing
  6. With an example from a recent hike, I demonstrated what to look for and how to properly photo-document fossil finds.
  7. The supportive role of the Badlands Natural History Association, highlighting its role in supporting educational outreach in the community in addition to artist-in-residencies.
  8. Directed parents to Junior Ranger materials.  Suggested topics of books grandchildren might enjoy.
  9. At my short presentation,  I offered suggestions for “tuning-in” to what is unique about Badlands and how to develop a relationship with the landscape - finding meaning / interpretative expressions unique to each photographer's experience of the park.  Distributed a handout with compositional and technical advice for photographing Badlands.