Nope, they are oh, so much more…life changing in fact. While serving as a National Park Service Artist in Residence at several parks over the past year I have lived in a hogan, climbed three stories up the face of a cliff on a ladder, hiked the back country after hours, had a close encounter with a Prairie Rattler, survived the ague and had a private viewing of priceless artifacts locked away in our national treasure chest. I will always cherish these amazing memories but there is more.
If you want to learn American History, you will not learn it in public school. There we learned to memorize a lot of dates and were spoon fed a sanitized version of our history as seen through the eyes of the dominant culture. If you want to experience the real history of our country, get out and see it first hand. The preliminary research I undertake prior to each trip ads a great depth of meaning to the parks, the hikes and museum collections. While in the National Parks I like to ponder the thought that I am literally breathing in the molecules of the historical events that came before my presence on these sacred grounds. But there is still more…
The people. On each trip I met wonderful people willing to share their interests, talents and cultures with me. The park staff have been so welcoming and supportive. Ranger Lil allowed me to lay on her office floor for two hours when I became ill and maintenance man Bill gave me a ride back to my park housing and acted as a firearms consultant on one of my quilts. Ranger Alvis threw me a going away party. Interns Marley and Nick generously shared their park home and horror movie collection. Ranger Fred showed me behind the scenes of The Cook Collection and the head Ranger at Mesa Verde spent a half hour of his time personally re-programming my walkie talkie so I would be safe in the back country. The children of The Indian Cultural Center, Lincoln, Nebraska allowed me to lead them in a group art project. Stuart Proud Eagle Grant generously shared his veneration of Crazy Horse and thoughts on Red Cloud.
Serving as an Artist in Residence for the NPS is really so much more than a hike in the woods. It is a gift that keeps on giving. I come home invigorated, head spinning with new ideas, ready to spend many pleasurable hours in the studio making art inspired by America’s Best Idea. And thanks to Stuart Grant, I am now immersed in research on Crazy Horse and thinking about my application for next years adventure.