Art meets Grand Canyon

I took a little peek into the Grand Canyon once. I felt about ten months pregnant with my son at the time, so I failed to appreciate the full measure of its splendor. Two decades later, I’m inspired to give the Grand Canyon a second look as Jan. 11 marks 104 years since President Theodore Roosevelt — a champion of environmental conservation — declared it a national monument.

Turns out there’s plenty of arts and culture inspired by the Grand Canyon — including “Grand Canyon Suite” composed by Ferde Grofé. It’s being performed by the Phoenix Symphony Feb. 16 and 18 at Symphony Hall in Phoenix.

This Arizona centennial celebration features two additional works conducted by Michael Christie — “Lincoln Portrait” by Copland and “New World Symphony” by Dvorák. “Grand Canyon Suite” will feature a commissioned work of photo-choreography by James Westwater.

An exhibit titled “Those Amazing Kolb Brothers: A Grand Life at the Grand Canyon” opened Dec. 19, 2011 at the Kolb Studio on the South Rim. The Kolb Studio once served as both home and business for of the Kolb brothers, pioneering photographers and filmmakers at the Grand Canyon. The rambling Victorian building has been restored to its original 1905 condition.

The Artist in Residence Program at the Grand Canyon National Park “aims to share the beauty and spirit of the Grand Canyon National Park” with visitors. Artists are encouraged to pursue their unique artistic vision and sensibility while supporting various “interpretive themes” such as inspiration, water, geology, biology, preservation and Native American connections.

The North Rim Artist-in-Residence program is seasonal — with six residencies during the spring, summer and fall. The South Rim Artist-in-Residence program is year-round, providing 12 artist opportunities. There are opportunities for contemporary, folk and traditional forms — including (but not limited to) visual arts, media, writers and performing arts.

The Grand Canyon National Park Artist-in-Residence program does public outreach programs in the Grand Canyon Unified School District. The following artists have already been selected to participate in school workshops, demonstrations and performances with the local school at the Grand Canyon, which has 300 students in grades K-12…

  • Jeweler Georgina Orme of Bath, England will jury the 9th Annual Student Art Exhibit in February.
  • Digital and mixed-media artist Jing Zhou of Ocean City, NJ will conduct an origami workshop about local animal species for middle school students in April.
  • Ice and paper sculptor Deborah Bird of Leicester, UK will conduct an artist talk with high school students in May.
  • Contemporary composer James Romig of Macomb, IL will work with “Parks in Focus” students in June.
  • Landscape painter Melinda Exparza of Tucson, AZ will give an artist talk/tour to “Parks in Focus” students in July.
  • Sound artist Eric Deluca of Charlottesville, VA will give an artist talk to “Grand Canyon Youth” students and do a school performance in August.
  • Composer Linda Chase of Arlington, MA will do a school performance in August.
  • Fabric artist Bobbie Sullivan of Scituate, MA  will do a hands-on project for high school art students in September.

Sometimes departing South Rim artists do a “mini-residency” for various Flagstaff Parks, thanks to an informal partnership between park personnel.

The Grand Canyon Music Festival, held each fall, includes an education and outreach program for youth dubbed “Grand Canyon School of Rock” — but specifics for the 2012 events haven’t yet been announced.

There’s also an Environmental Education program, which works with local schools and visiting students from all over the region. I’m told they do science, art and history projects with students of all ages.

The “4th Annual Grand Canyon Celebration of Art” takes place Sept. 8-Nov. 25 on the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. Event proceeds will fund an art venue on the South Rim for preserving and showcasing historic and contemporary paintings owned by the Grand Canyon National Park and the Grand Canyon Association.

From Sept. 8 to 12, artists will paint on site — and free public demonstrations will take place along the rim adjacent to El Tovar Hotel. From sunrise to 10am on Sept. 13 all artists will paint along the rim between Mather Point and Kolb Studio, and there’s a special evening presentation that day as well.

There’s a “Quick Draw” event and auction on Aug. 14, plus a buyer’s preview and awards reception that evening. The opening reception and awards ceremony takes place the morning of Aug. 15. And there’s something new for 2012 — Sept. 16-21 classes taught on the South Rim by award-winning artist Linda Glover Gooch. The exhibition and art sale runs Sept 15-Nov 25.

Keep some of these art adventures in mind as you’re planning travel with family, friends or visitors from other parts. Though the Grand Canyon is itself a very moving piece of artistry, it’s also great fun to see how others explore, interpret and represent the canyon’s many wonders through diverse works of art.

— Lynn

Note: Artwork in this post was created in 2009 by students at Mill Creek Elementary in Lenexa, Kansas to depict the five movements of the “Grand Canyon Suite” (Sunrise, Painted Desert, On the Trail, Sunset and Cloudburst).

Coming up: Celebrating MLK Day — the arts & culture way

Update: Grand Canyon National Park is joining national park sites around the country in celebrating MLK Day by waiving entrance fees for all visitors arriving Jan. 14-16, 2012. Click here to learn about additional “fee free days.” 1/11/12


2 responses to “Art meets Grand Canyon

  1. Hi Lynn! I am the coordinator of Grand Canyon’s Artist-in-Residence program, and your blog site was spotted by one of our upcoming artists – composer Erik Deluca. Just wanted to say hello and thanks for covering our program! Let me know if you have any questions about what’s going on in the art world at the Canyon.


    Rene Westbrook

    • Hi Rene: Thanks so much for getting in touch. Would love more info about your programs. The best way for everyone to get items on my radar is to e-mail press releases (friendly FYIs in more casual form are also welcome) to Always nice to get related art and photos too when folks have them to share. Items for the Raising Arizona Kids calendar should go to I first visited the Grand Canyon while pregnant with my son, now 22 years old. It’s a wonder I didn’t tip over! Hope you’ll stay in touch. — Lynn

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