Arts and the Parks - Celebrating 100 Years

Thu Aug 25 2016

In a time long before social media, the Internet, or even television, huge swaths of land in the western United States lay vulnerable to the profiteering eyes of corporate executives who saw dollar signs instead of the virtues of wild places. They started to log and mine these wild places, or take control of them to the exclusion of others. National leaders like Teddy Roosevelt, Steven Mather and Horace Albright saw something else. They saw the opportunity for a unique legacy to make these wonderful, diverse ecosystems accessible to all Americans, not just the wealthy or the corporations. And while the first national park had already been set aside in 1872, there was not a national agency in place to manage it effectively or other lands that needed protection.

Key in the early development of many of these public lands were artists from painters and photographers to writers. Names like Ansel Adams and John Muir are recognized as central to the establishment of many national parks, and even the national park system itself, which was formally created on August 25, 1916. A hundred years ago, it was the artists who were giving to the parks.

As we celebrate today the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, I want to take a different approach to recognizing the contributions of our parks to our society. Most certainly, they are "America's Best Idea" and in so many ways have contributed heavily to the betterment of our existence. I certainly have largely been influenced by them through the years, starting with foundational experiences in my youth.

Today, I want to thank the national parks for giving back to the artists who helped to create them. In recognition of this legacy, the National Park Service has established Artist-in-Residence programs in 50 national park units. I have had the honor to serve as an artist-in-residence for three national parks: Badlands, Gates of the Arctic, and Rocky Mountain. Each experience has provided me amazing opportunities to grow as an artist, and to share the wonders and beauty of the natural world with others. But aside from these formal programs, the parks still offer a place where I can go as an artist to explore the natural world and my craft, free of distractions, interruptions and other things that deter the creative process. My most award-winning images have been captured in national parks. Is it because these places are simply inherently beautiful or that they imbue such inspiration that I am at my best creatively? Who knows.

So, I want to take today's celebration to thank the parks for helping me to grow and develop as an artist, and to give me places to go that will always be full of wonder and opportunity, so long as we continue to recognize their value and protect them. In the next hundred years, as the planet's population continues to grow exponentially and we face the challenges of global climate change, the vigilance needed to honor and protect these lands will be even more demanding and necessary.

For the rest of the year, any image in my Galleries from a national park will be 25% off. Simply enter the coupon code NPS100 when making your purchase.

Evening light, Badlands National Park
Arrigetch Peaks, Gates of the Arctic National Park