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Growth. I’m all about it. (Personal growth, that is.)

Speaking of it, as part of my CVA-ship, I recently took on the position of managing Saguaro National Park’s first Artist-in-Residence (AiR) program.  It’s really quite insane. Program management, among all of my other duties, leaves me feeling consta-stressed. But I’m doing it because art has always been something that I am passionate about, and the parks could definitely use some creativity in the mix.

Yesterday, I helped to run the park’s first public art workshop as a part of the Artist-in-Residence program. The workshop was titled, “Cactus Block Printing”, and was geared for children and families. After using watercolor or acrylic to paint a background on paper or a canvas tote, kids etched a design into foam that was then used to “stamp” their project.

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In between driving to and from Saguaro’s two districts, which lie about an hour away from one another, checking emails, advertising events and figuring out all of the logistics in between, it’s been a real adventure. I’m growing confidence in making my own choices in the park, rather than seeking guidance from staff.

While working independently has been something I’ve done since my position began, it has never been something I’m excited about. However, as this is the first time the park is running an AiR program, there is no precedent that I must follow. This all equals more freedom for me to make programmatic choices as I wish. I sent out a call for artists, vetted and chose an applicant, then worked to determine dates of residence and activities that the artist completes while in the park.

I then made the decision to name the workshop series Art in the Park, which is simple but catchy!  I even got to shop online for art materials, which made the crafty 11 year-old in me VERY happy.

The AiR program has been running at some of the more established parks for years now, but I really do feel quite passionately that it should be a running program at most parks. The public is so ecstatic about art, and it’s hard for people to turn down a free opportunity to be a kid again and paint a colorful blur of watercolor.

By engaging visitors in creativity, they become part of the process of learning about their environment and growing to appreciate its resources. I believe that art is yet another way to connect those disillusioned or separated from nature with their own backyards.

While the artist’s residency will only last until the end of October, I anticipate helping to seek additional funding for AiR to continue at Saguaro into the future. I can’t stick around forever, but I do hope to revisit the park some day in twenty years to see the AiR program alive and well.