For my second eco art session I focused on the idea of "footprints" (and/or handprints) and what us, as visitors, leave behind when interacting with National parks. A common phrase used in the parks is "leave only footprints, take only photos." When visiting parks I think A LOT about the literal and metaphorical footprints I leave behind. Hopefully these prints are not visible (aka litter, going off trail, making new cairns). It is important to reflect on the ways your visit has touched the land positively OR negatively. On the other side of things, maybe it is more impactful to think about the way the park has made an impact (imPRINT??) on your relationship with the outdoors? My goal of these eco art workshops in the park is solely to reflect, and even if one realized they have had some sort of negative impact on the land, the act of sitting down and reflecting is positive because it's the first step to moving forward.
The day was wonderful and filled with a lot of this reflection! Michael Haynie, an interpretive ranger for the park, gave me a huge box filled with out of date park newspapers and maps from 2014. The maps seemed to be the exact replicas of the ones we hand out today, but apparently a few minor changes had been made, making these hundreds of copies unusable. So that was the substrate we were to work with!
I had a reluctant family of four from Canada resist my ploys to get them to make art, but finally they gave in to my spiel muahahah. The parents seemed especially self conscious to create art, but the simple act of tracing their hands to cut out and collage onto an old park newspaper (pictured above) took some of the pressure off and they were able to thrive! Jenny Browne, the Artist in Residence for the month of July, also graced me with her presence! She too, cut out her own hand and painted ocotillo growing up her fingers.
Later, another family of four joined in on the fun. They were UNBELIEVABLY AMAZING. I still cannot get over how enthusiastic and brilliant these kids were. Their parents were super thankful/ excited and said that they were going to continue making art on the maps that they accumulate from other parks on their road trip!!!!!! HOW COOL! The boy was 2 (but almost 3) and was a little shy but not when it came to painting! His older sister (5) was just about the cutest thing I've ever seen and also my artistic inspiration. She dove right in and took off her little velcro shoe so I could help her trace her footprint on the old map!
The last family was ALSO adorable. There were two younger girls who were FEARLESS when it came to colors. It is so exciting watching kids make art because it is always unique and unexpected and therefore beautiful. At the end of the session the mom attempted to "donate" the painted maps to the park, which I gotta say is fine by me but also... COME ON! But the grandfather was sneaky and ended up taking both of his granddaughters' paintings and risking his car getting a little paint stained. YES!