For hundreds of years, the majestic natural formation of the Grand Canyon has inspired creativity among people. Natives, locals and visitors alike are taken by the beauty of the region, the waterways, clear skies, colorful landscapes and wildlife. The experience has inspired those who have never written a line of poetry before to pick up a notebook and pen. Families capture photos that freeze memories in time. Artists travel to quiet spaces to work in oils, acrylics and to sketch drawings in dusty notebooks. Musicians return to their hometowns with chords and rhythms earnest to come into reality. The arts do much more than reflect our culture. They have the power to transform.
We live in a climate where it seems our national parks are always at risk. According to the National Park Service:
“National parks have always welcomed artistic interpretations in support of land advocacy. Thomas Moran’s evocative and astounding paintings directly influenced the establishment of our first National Park (Yellowstone, 1872).”
The arts can not only transfer us to different spaces in memory and time, but bring attention to the beauty and significance of our history and connection to the places where we live, visit and vacation. They can evoke celebration and sadness. Illuminate the misuse of resources and give voice to endangered species. The arts serve as objects and experiences that can critique the world we live in or give form to the feeling one can have when hiking through the Grand Canyon or rafting along the Colorado River.
Before you take a look at some of the work that has been inspired by the Grand Canyon, did you know that there are Artist in Residence programs available through the National Parks? Each park may have different themes, deadlines and volume of applicants for each year.
For an overview and links to all programs: National Parks Service: Be An Artist in Residence
For the programs at the Grand Canyon National Park
No discussion of the visual arts inspired by the Grand Canyon would be complete without discussing Thomas Moran. The painting pictured here is Moran’s “Grand Canyon of the Colorado” in 1908. Moran is historically credited because he
“awakened the American consciousness to the permanent value of those wide, measureless expanses of wilderness, of sky and mountain and extravagances of Nature, as natural resources of beauty to be prized and conserved and held as great national parks” (Robert Allerton Parker as quoted by ASU). Read more….
Elizabeth Black is a painter who works with watercolors and oils to create realistic visions of the Grand Canyon landscape and surrounding areas. Chris Brown is a photographer who captures incredible spaces and moments of the beauty of the Grand Canyon. They shared an artist’s residency in both 2012 and 2013 at the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. Brown writes,
“I am not as interested in documenting the literal representation of my subject as its essence.”
Visit Elizabeth Black Art to view her virtual online gallery.
Experience Chris Brown Photography to see his work capturing the Western American Landscape.
Carol Nelson is an art instructor and contemporary artist who works with contemporary mixed media and acrylic paintings. Her work with color is vibrant, warm, and intensely beautiful. You can visit her blogspot to view her abstract acrylic paintings “Grand Canyon 3” and “Grand Canyon 4.”
Visit Nelson’s full online gallery and site.
Jason Hines is a fine art and landscape photographer. Check out the most beautiful photos in his gallery. Hines does work with a camera like no one I have ever seen. His work will absolutely blow your mind. It’s insane.
Learn more about opportunities and workshops in the visual arts in the Grand Canyon area through the Community Performing Arts Center
Ancient Tribal Art
Many of the handcrafted artifacts that we view as art today likely had a specific purpose in its original time of creation. Items, petroglyphs and petrograph were likely used as tools, a way to record events, tell stories, preserve history, or teach to younger members of a tribe. Split twig figures have been found in the drier places within the Grand Canyon. These beautiful pieces date back 2000 to 4000 years ago. The most interesting thing about these pieces is that they are crafted from a single twig, split and bent to shape animals.
The Hopi people are descended from the Ancient Pueblo (a term given to the native peoples by the 16th century Spaniards). The Hopi create Kachina dolls, fine jewelry and earthenware ceramics. Visitors to the Grand Canyon should make time to experience Hopi culture.
The Smithsonian Folkways Recordings is a non-profit record label of the Smithsonian Institution. Their mission is to document the authentic words, sounds, and music of the people. In 2005 they released Songs and Stories from Grand Canyon.
A 2010 – 2011 Grand Canyon Artist in Residence, Rhonda Rider, commissioned 10 selected composers to write Grand Canyon inspired solo cello pieces. The expected February 2011 performance at the Grand Canyon was postponed due to a blizzard but took place the following October. The results of the work are beautiful compositions from some of the finest composers and performers of our time.
Nicholas Gunn, a classically trained musician and instrumentalist participated in Real Music’s National Park Series. The result was his third album The Music of the Grand Canyon released in 1995. He went on to release Return to the Grand Canyon (1999) and Beyond Grand Canyon (2006). The 2006 release was also released as a DVD where the photography of Michael Fatali was paired with Gunn’s compositions.
The Sounds of the Grand Canyon is a 1993 compilation with music inspired by the Grand Canyon paired with sounds from the park’s natural surroundings. Instrumental performances by David Goldblatt, Tim Heintz, Grant Geissman, Chuck Greensburg and Lee Ann Harris of original music composed by Goldblatt and Randy Peterson weave a unique listening experience.
You can explore the interesting participants and projects that have been generated by the fifteen years of Artist-In-Residence at Grand Canyon National Park.
It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself a professional or amateur artist or musician. Or if you simply enjoy consuming culture. Be inspired by the art and sounds of the Grand Canyon. See what others are doing and make time to create beautiful things. Explore the National Parks. Support them. Protect them. Celebrate them.
Do you have original creative work inspired by the Grand Canyon? Know of an artist we simply must check out? Feel free to share a link in the comments.