My first week on the job I came across this dad and his three kids (as discussed in an earlier post GMNP Week 1). It was such a great experience to meet and work with them. However, something the dad said during that encounter really stuck with me... He urged his kids to really take advantage of the opportunity because "we'll probably never get the chance to paint in a National Park again." I'm paraphrasing but WOW what the HECK!!! Everyone should get the chance to paint/ be creative in ANY way during every interaction they have with a park!! What better a space to be creative than the majesty of the great outdoors??? It really saddened me to hear those works come out of his park supporting mouth- after all, the kids were between 5 and 12. They have their WHOLE LIVES to create in parks!!! The middle boy even said that he wanted to be an artist when he grows up! I told him, "me too."
I think this is an important issue that should be addressed in the NPS. Because of Artist In Residence (AIR) programs around the country, the NPS clearly values art. The tricky part is giving non-professional artists the tools to feel comfortable creating and reflecting on their experiences within parks! I have definitely fallen victim to just driving straight through a park, doing the most popular hike, and zooming off to the next destination. People are on TIME CRUNCHES! It is a real struggle, especially nowadays to give visitors the opportunity to slow down and appreciate where they are. I have been trying to slow down my fast pace recently. My busy bee East Coast ways are imbedded pretty deep into my being so it has been difficult to literally slow down to smell the flowers or observe a rock or notice a unique view. Just yesterday I went for a long hike with some of the park rangers. I knew going in that it was going to be a long hike, but it still took everything I had to not just bust through, keep my head down, and make it to the top. The rangers taught me about the importance of stopping often and reflecting, which I'm all about! But it still takes practice and patience to be a true master of being present and noticing where you are.