GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - Grand Canyon National Park is valued worldwide as one of the world's most powerful and inspiring scenic landscapes. It has inspired artists from painters Thomas Moran and Gunnar Widforss to composer Ferde Grofé; and now, it has inspired a group of nine high school youth participating in the park's first Grand Inspiration program.
From June 28 to July 10, program participants joined park rangers, an art educator and river guides on a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon, and created works of art along the way. The National Park Service and its partner Grand Canyon Youth designed this pilot program to get youth into the outdoors and inspired by the unique scenery and resources of Grand Canyon National Park.
Grand Canyon Youth selected participants through an application process. Students submitted personal sketches, paintings, photographs or poetry along with an essay for their application. In preparation for the trip, participants were required to keep visual journals, complete community service, and participate in conference calls that helped them prepare for the experience.
Grand Inspiration not only provided the opportunity for participants to connect artistically with this iconic park, but also promoted a sense of stewardship towards the park and natural places. According to the Artist's Statement participants developed to interpret their exhibition, "As guests to the river and its surroundings, we learned to respect the area as both an element that could take our lives and as inspiration into a creative venture."
Trip leaders and park rangers guided program participants to a variety of unique locations both along the river and down side canyons. Along the way, they practiced different techniques for visual arts and creative writing and learned about the geology and natural history of the canyon.
Additionally, as a part of their experience and to share their new found sense of place, the students designed an art exhibition to convey to visitors the significance of the Grand Canyon. "Amidst the glory of the area, it is difficult not to be inspired. Regardless of artistic interest, the marvel of nature and its profound strength encourage thought of some sort, and sometimes, a wave of creativity knocks you in the back; it is up to you whether to surf the wave or be swallowed by it." According to the youth, this exhibition shares their surfing experience.
The design process for the final exhibition started several days into the river trip, and participants later spent two days assembling it at Park Headquarters on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. The exhibition Read the Water will be on display at Park Headquarters through Labor Day.
The mission of Grand Canyon Youth is to provide youth ages 12-19 with experiential outdoor education opportunities along the rivers and in the canyons of the Southwest while promoting environmental awareness, community involvement, personal growth, and teamwork among people of diverse backgrounds.
The Environmental Education Branch of Grand Canyon National Park seeks to inspire stewardship and enthusiasm for the outdoors among youth by providing programs that link the preservation of Grand Canyon National Park to conservation in their backyards and communities.
The partnership between the National Park Service and Grand Canyon Youth (GCY) started twelve years ago. Since then, it has continued to grow; and in 2008, the organizations expanded the partnership to offer overnight youth programs called Rim to River, which incorporate science service into the daily trip activities. After a successful season of four Rim to River programs in 2009, the two organizations wanted to offer a program appealing to youth with interests beyond science. Grand Inspiration focuses on parks as places for solitude, reflection and inspiration. The river affords access to remarkable scenery and a sense of escape from the fast pace of life and crowds of people, making it an ideal place to explore this theme.
For more information about the Grand Inspiration program or the Read the River exhibition, please contact Grand Canyon Camp Coordinator Megan Kohli at (928) 638-7683. For more on Grand Canyon Youth, please visit www.gcyouth.org.