Nature writing on the lawn at historic Fort Yellowstone. Painting a landscape in watercolors at Madison. Photographing the classic architecture of Lake Hotel. These may not be the type of activities that first come to mind when you envision your next trip to Yellowstone, but they will allow you to tap into your creativity and experience the park in a whole new way.
The National Park Service’s Arts in the Park program brings together artists and visitors to add a creative element to the park experience. In Yellowstone, the program features a professional photographer, Yellowstone Forever Artists-in-Residence, and a local writer, who offer a wide variety of hands-on photography and art activities throughout the summer.
According to Bianca Klein, exhibits specialist and coordinator of Arts in the Park in Yellowstone, the program was designed to inspire new ways of enjoying the beauty and wonder of Yellowstone, and also encourage visitors to pause and savor their surroundings.
“We see so many visitors rushing around the park, checking off items on their bucket list. They aren’t stopping to reflect on their experience,” says Klein. “Guided art and writing activities help people to slow down, reflect, and observe – and ultimately experience the park in different way.”
The program’s Pop-up Art Studios give visitors the tools and guidance they need to create their own art inspired by their surroundings during two-hour activities. In Photo Skills Workshops, Yellowstone’s park photographer, Jim Peaco, helps visitors enhance their photography skills. The themed, one-hour classes start with 30 minutes of basic photography instruction followed by 30 minutes of hands-on learning.
Klein says the activities are designed so visitors of any age can participate. “We like to say they are ‘for kids of all ages.’ Initially, adults tend to be more focused on their trip plans for the day, but their children pull them in. After arriving at an activity, the adults end up relaxing, engaging, and sometimes spending more time in a certain area of the park than they normally would,” says Klein.
Now in its fourth year, the Arts in the Park program continues to enjoy success and growth each summer. Klein says that 14 programs are scheduled for this summer—more than in past seasons—and new locations and activities have been added.
“Since the Yellowstone Forever Artists-in-Residence change each summer, there are different workshops each year,” explains Klein. “This year we have some exciting new activities including watercolor painting and creating mini art books in pastel. One of the artists is hosting a fun cyanotype workshop, making sun prints on the shore of Yellowstone Lake.”
Klein says adults tend to be more self-conscious than kids about diving into an art activity, but encourages visitors to have an open mind.
“It doesn’t really matter if you feel like you have art skills—this is simply a new way of looking at and connecting with the park, and having a richer experience during your time in Yellowstone,” says Klein. “It might even reignite a creative spark in someone who hasn’t made art in many years.”
Locations range from Artist Point and the base of Mount Washburn, to visitor centers, ranger stations, and the Yellowstone Art & Photography Center at Old Faithful. Programs are held on Wednesdays throughout the summer. Check the park website for the schedule and locations.