Park creates first artist-in-residence program

By Katie Demeria

Shenandoah National Park will follow the lead of many other national parks throughout the country and implement an artist-in-residence program this year.

While park officials have been thinking about doing the program for several years, Leslie Velarde, volunteer and youth programs coordinator, said her involvement and background working with artists has given the park the push it needs to begin.

“It’s a good way for different viewpoints to be showcased,” Velarde said of the program. “Not everybody has an artistic bone and not everybody has the opportunity to get into the wilderness.”

The artist, then, will illustrate an aspect of the park that others may not usually see, Velarde said. The selected individual should focus on the visual arts, including painting, drawing or photography.

While other parks support residencies that sometimes last several months, Shenandoah’s first artist-in-residence will only reside at the park for two weeks, from Sept. 22 through Oct. 3. Officials are currently accepting applications.

“Since we’re beginning, we felt that two weeks was a good window for artists to get really immersed and provide something that is durable,” Velarde said.

After the residency, the artist will have six months to complete the final project.

According to Velarde, the park would like the selected artist to showcase a wilderness-related perspective, as this year it has been highlighting the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.

Forty percent of the national park is a designated wilderness area, according to Velarde.

“That is unknown to a lot of people, but such a big part of Shenandoah National Park,” she said. “We saw an opportunity there to bridge the artist’s vision with the existing wilderness in the park.”

The use of the finished project is not entirely certain right now, Velarde said, but it will likely be used in interpretive exhibits within or outside the park, such as in the visitor’s center, in traveling exhibits or in junior rangers booklets.

During the residency, the artist will also be asked to spend some time engaging with the public by doing demonstrations in a visible, high traffic area in order to explain their process to park guests.

“It’s a meet and greet type of idea, so people can ask what they’re doing and maybe see some of the stuff they already have or items they might have started for the program,” Velarde said.

By allowing for some public engagement, Velarde said, the park hopes to provide the visitors with a glimpse of the artist’s unique vision.

“Every artist, even if it’s in the same media, has a different vision and a different way of portraying something, a vista or an image can be seen through different eyes depending on the person that has done it,” she said.

“A lot of times, people are just interested in what inspires somebody,” Velarde continued. “Not everybody is artistic, so sometimes it’s a refreshing way for the public to see something they otherwise wouldn’t be able to.”

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Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or

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