Collective Park Art

By Beacon Staff

You would think the artists behind Glacier National Park’s annual pass would be world renowned painters or photographers. But you would be wrong. In fact, the art selected for the 2012 and 2013 park passes, more than 14,000 of which are sold every year, came from amateur artists.

The 2012 annual park pass features a mural coordinated by park volunteer Sheryl Mink and created by more than 700 visitors and park employees. Meanwhile, earlier this month, park officials selected the work of a local Glacier High School student to be featured on the 2013 pass.

According to park spokesperson Denise Germann, annual passes traditionally include historic photos, but this year officials decided to feature the mural at the St. Mary’s Ranger Station. Mink, whose husband is a seasonal employee, lives in Idaho and spent part of last summer teaching people the basics of art and watercolor at the ranger station. Part of that project included having people help out with a mural depicting the natural beauty of the park. Visitors and staff members alike contributed to the work, from dotting it with paint-covered fingers to carefully drawing wildlife.

“A lot of them were just walking through and had no idea what they were getting into,” Mink said. “It’s pretty neat to have so many people be part of the mural.”

Over the course of the summer the scene slowly took shape, featuring jagged mountains and deep valleys. Mink, who teaches at a middle school, said she had no idea how the finished product would look, but she is pleased with the results. The painting represents all the different ways people have been affected by the park, and is titled, “Touched By Glacier.”

“One of the things I reminded people is that this park is ours,” she said. “The people who worked (on the mural) love the park and their work shows that the park is a special place for all of us.”

The same landscapes that inspired Mink’s mural also influenced Brian Smith’s drawing, selected from work submitted by Flathead Valley students earlier this month to be featured on the 2013 pass. Smith, 17, who graduated from Glacier High School earlier this year, is now a welder and never considered a career in art; it’s just something he enjoys.

Smith was taking an art class when his teacher, Emily Thiessen, assigned her students to submit something for the annual art contest.

“I didn’t think it would get selected,” he said. “But I tried to make it as realistic as I could.”

Smith based the piece off a picture he found on the Internet and spent five hours working on it.

Thiessen was pleasantly surprised when she found out that three of her students took the top spots in the contest. The other students will have their work featured on postcards that will be distributed throughout the park. Smith’s drawing will be featured on the park pass beginning next January. Smith said although he’s not an artist – he’d rather keep it a hobby – it’s an honor to have his drawing so prominently displayed.

“I think it’s pretty sweet that everyone is going to be looking at my drawing, even people from around the world,” he said.

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