NASAA Notes: July 2024

July 2, 2024

California, North Dakota, Wyoming: The Arts, Nature and Community

State arts agencies are increasingly cultivating partnerships with their state departments of natural resources. These cross-sector collaborations can promote public access to the arts and employment opportunities for artists while also boosting public enjoyment of park lands. Arts in the parks programs strengthen the connections between natural and cultural resources, encouraging both healthier living and shared community experiences. California, North Dakota and Wyoming are three states that have partnered with their respective state parks departments to provide grant funding that ties together community, creativity and the great outdoors.

California

Artist Isabel Garcia paints a mural at the Dia de los Muertos event at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. Photo by California State Parks, Brian Baer, courtesy of California Arts Council

The California Arts Council has teamed up with the California Department of Parks and Recreation (State Parks) and nonprofit partner Parks California to offer a new program connecting artists, culture bearers, California Native American tribes and local communities. The Arts in State Parks grant will fund projects within state parks, focusing on building capacity to use arts as a catalyst for community connection, health and well-being. The pilot program started in summer 2023, with projects including artists in residence, oral history storytelling, postdisaster works of art in fire-stricken forests, and a concert series. An artist directory was created to provide a space for collaboration, networking and finding artists interested in public art in the parks projects.

The Local Parks Grant Program will fund California Native American tribes, organizations and municipal government projects in local parks over three years. Eligible projects will evoke local cultural history and tie it to local parks and natural areas though community events, programming and installations. Both planning and implementation grants are available.

Both programs are designed to connect with State Parks’s Reexamining Our Past Initiative, which prioritizes collaborating with California Native American tribes to address incomplete histories, recontextualize local space and end existing discriminatory location names. For more information on the cross-sector partnership, contact California Arts Council Director of Public Affairs Carissa Gutierrez.

North Dakota

An example of Swedish bonadsmålning on linen, created by Pieper Bloomquist at Fort Stevenson State Park. Image courtesy North Dakota Council on the Arts

The North Dakota Council on the Arts (NDCA) has an ongoing partnership with the North Dakota Parks & Recreation Department to offer an Artist in Residency parks program. The program, now in its 15th year, provides up to $2,250 in stipends and lodging for participating artists. The program endeavors to provide creative inspiration for artists through access to the outdoors. Simultaneously, the program gives North Dakota residents new ways to perceive and appreciate public lands, with the hope of inspiring good stewardship for future generations. NDCA promotes community access to experiential arts learning through stipulating that artists in residence provide a minimum of two onsite presentations, including one hands-on workshop. One completed work must be donated to the park, which will then feature the work as part of its collection. Previous artists and their works are accessible via the Art in the Parks page. To learn more, contact North Dakota Council on the Arts Public Information Officer Rhea Beto and North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department Education and Programs Chief Josh Steffan.

Wyoming

A youth water-coloring event hosted by artist Sabine McClintok at Plein Air at Curt Gowdy State Park. Photo courtesy Wyoming Arts Council

The Wyoming Arts Council and Wyoming State Parks connect artists, community and the outdoors through year-round programming across the state. Running since 2017, Plein Air in the Parks is a week-long arts event featuring painting and drawing competitions, mini-workshops, arts demonstrations, social activities, and youth-focused arts activities. All activities except registration for the competitions are free and open to the public. In 2024, Plein Air in the Parks will be held at two separate state parks, providing 10 days of opportunities for artists and communities to participate in creative experiences outdoors. Cash prizes are awarded by outside jurors, with special awards for youth and teens. A popular People’s Choice Award is selected by exhibit attendees.

The Wyoming State Parks Artist in Residence program provides a stipend of $3,500 and waived camping and day use fees for the selected artist. The Wyoming Arts Council and Wyoming State Parks provide a 10-day road trip itinerary for the artist, who must visit a minimum of four state parks. The artist in residence is expected to create 10 pieces inspired by their experience, which will be showcased at the Wyoming State Museum as part of the Artist-in-Residence Show and Sale. To find out more, contact Wyoming Arts Council Creative Arts Specialist Kimberly Mittelstadt.

California, North Dakota and Wyoming are not the only states fostering creativity and social well-being through connecting parks and arts experiences. Arizona, Delaware, Indiana and Ohio also have ongoing partnerships with state natural resources agencies to inspire artists and communities through providing creative experiences in state parks:

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