Artists in the Parks

Pond’s Edge…The Poque

I received a couple of comments about my previous post highlighting the carved log which honors the nature poet Seamus Heaney. My own curiosity about how these logs came to be transplanted into the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park landscape led me to do some “Google” research. 🙂

Throughout the national park service, there is a quiet movement underway that brings art, artists and our national parks together. The result is a robust Artist-in-Residence program that exists in many of our national parks nationwide. Most people visiting our national parks are totally unaware of these collaborations or the impact they have on both the park and the public. I became aware of this marriage between artists and parks during my two-year tenure at Acadia National Park as a park ranger. Through staff email alerts and exploring our park website, I familiarized myself with the artist-in-residence program there and learned about current and past projects.

During my second season at Acadia, I had the opportunity to participate in a night photography workshop led by the local Mount Desert Island artist and photographer, Howie Motenko. During the course of the evening workshop, he shared his most recent enterprise with us. He had just completed a 2-year photographic study within Acadia National Park. Over a 24 month period of time, he photographed landscape scenes in Acadia National Park using the light of the full moon. At the conclusion of our evening workshop, he shared his best large format prints with us. An exhibition of these photographs would be held during the month of November (2019) at the Northeast Harbor Library. The prints were stunning. Howie Motenko had been a former artist-in-residence in Acadia. I left Mount Desert Island at the end of October so I did not get to see the exhibit. But, I appreciated that he had given us a sneak preview!

In wondering about the carved poetry logs throughout Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Park, it had not occurred to me that these pieces represented the work of an artist-in-residence. I should have probably suspected that given my experience in Acadia! Well, it turns out that there is an artist-in-residence program at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller NHP. The carved poetry logs are the work of New York-based environmental artist Alastair Noble . He was an artist-in-residence at the park during 2013-2014. According to the Park Facebook page: “Each log was carved by Noble with a line from poems highlighting the wonders of nature. Some are from poets like T.S. Eliot, Seamus Heaney, and Edgar Allen Poe. These logs were scattered throughout the park with the idea that visitors will “discover” them when they least expect it. As of 2020, the logs are more difficult to read as they are slowly decomposing, just as Noble intended.” Apparently there are at least 10 logs in existence. I cannot wait to get back there and find the remaining 8 poetry logs!! 🙂

So, before you head out to your next national park – do some research and find out if they support an artist-in-residence program! The National Park Service has an overview of the program here. To learn more about the program at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller NHP, visit their Artist in Residence home page. You just never know what you might discover!

2 Comments on “Artists in the Parks

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