Arts & Parks: A Partnership for Stewardship

This sculpture at CityView Park in Monticello is just one example of the intersection between parks and the arts.

There is a long history linking art and parks. Photographs, paintings, and a culture of both written and spoken storytelling have captured the beauty and wonder of the natural world, inspiring travel and exploration and serving as a platform for the preservation and protection of many of America’s national and state parks.

While the lakes, prairies, woodlands, and rivers are often enough to draw visitors into Minnesota’s county and city parks, parks departments across the state have been utilizing the connection between art and nature to expand their visitorship. By partnering with artists to display both temporary and permanent art installations and bringing art events and programs into park facilities, many communities are able to attract new visitors, fostering stewardship of the parks system as a new venue for the display and appreciation of both art and nature.

While common in urban parks, art is now popping up in more natural park venues. Art is enhancing the park visitor experience and showcasing the unique attributes of the park. The value of the art and park partnership goes in both directions – art is an avenue to attract new visitors to the parks, and the park inspires the creativity that encourages stewardship of the place.

There are a host of examples of art being used in various ways in public park systems. A quick search illustrates that cities around the country – Seattle, Tempe, Columbus, Houston and many, many more – are looking to the art community to bring events, programming, and displays into their parks systems. The National Parks Service website also showcases its Artist in Residence program, which provides artists with the chance to creat art within the park in all forms – from visual to musical to written art. At a local level, the City of Monticello has developed a new Arts Initiative, which will include the use of art to enhance its downtown park spaces. Monticello developed this partnership after finding success in working with a local artist whose sculpture is at home near a well-used mountain biking trail in the community’s Cityview Park.

For resources on local arts initiatives, visit the Minnesota State Arts Board, www.arts.state.mn.us and find out more about the regional arts councils located through the state, which can be found at http://www.arts.state.mn.us/racs/.