To Play In, To Pray In

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”

– The Yosemite (1912), page 256. ~ John Muir

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When researching various Artist-in-Residence programs offered in the United States, I happened across the Artist-in-Residence Programs in National Parks, and it truly captured for me, the essence of what I believe to be the power of art and music within the context of nature – to offer a chance for reflection, to highlight the broad capacity of human creativity, and to provide an opportunity to remember, to grieve, and to heal. I have long loved the idea of bringing music to public spaces, and the concept of music and art tied together – for instance, music in art museums, or in this instance, music influenced and inspired by nature’s beauty, which is art in itself – is, I think, particularly moving and necessary in the world that we live in now.

The program, which has been offered by the National Park System since the late 19th century, today boasts 50 residency programs established across the country. The programs provide the opportunity for visual artists, writers, composers, musicians, and others in creative media, to create within a variety of natural and cultural settings, reflecting the incredible diversity and wonder of the American landscape. Additionally, the public outreach aspect to each Artist-in-Residence program highlights the importance of community engagement with the arts. The integration of the arts in national parks gives visitors the chance to experience a unique and innovative perspective of the park, allowing them to see the natural setting through a series of diverse artistic lenses.

Each Artist-in-Residence program is different, varying both in length and in focus of the artistic project. For instance, the Glacier National Park offers a four-week Artist-in-Residence program that seeks artists whose work relates to the park interpretative themes, and includes three public programs presented by the artist, consisting of – but not limited to – lectures, workshops, demonstrations, performances, or film screenings. The program further encourages the presentation of work in the artist’s hometown, focusing on the artist’s experience in the park and the park’s influence on personal enrichment. Collaboration between artists and the public through an outreach program, I think, is one of the most important factors in elevating interest and appreciation for the arts in the community. I also believe that this interaction of arts within the community encourages a creative spirit and passion that is the heart and message of artistic expression.

 

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~ Glacier National Park, Montana ~