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".
- Artist-in-Residence program
- 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.
- A continuous slide show of my photos highlighting beautiful aspects of the Balands landscape, suggesting photo possibilities for visitors
- Introduction to my digital silk painting medium and processes
- Scenic possibilities and favorite hikes, tying-in with factual background from Ranger, Alison on what visitors might be seeing
- With an example from a recent hike, I demonstrated what to look for and how to properly photo-document fossil finds.
- 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.
- Directed parents to Junior Ranger materials. Suggested topics of books grandchildren might enjoy.
- 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.