Arts in the Parks

Carol Harding and Kes Woodward in art gallery
Carol Harding, founding program coordinator, with Kesler Woodward, founding artist, at the dedication of the Eielson Visitor Center in 2008.

NPS Photo / Kent Miller

A History of Arts in National Parks

Artists have had a significant impact on the creation and development of America's national parks since the beginning of the national park movement. Dramatic nineteenth century paintings of the western landscape raised public consciousness about the natural wonders of the West and helped stimulate interest in their preservation. Public response to Thomas Moran's splendid landscape paintings from the Hayden U.S. Geological Survey of the Yellowstone region in 1871 led directly to the creation of America's first national park.

The artist Belmore Browne was one of the first proponents of the establishment of Mt. McKinley (now Denali) National Park, in the early years of the twentieth century. Not only an accomplished painter and outdoorsman, but a superb mountaineer who was on three of the most important pioneering climbs on Denali, in 1906, 1910, and 1912. Browne joined Charles Sheldon in proposing protection of the land and animals of the Denali region, and their testimony led directly to the establishment of the park in 1917.

Since that time, practically every important landscape painter who has worked in Alaska has painted "The Mountain," and many have explored and painted the regions surrounding it which are now part of Denali National Park and Preserve. These artists--Sydney Laurence, Eustace Ziegler, Ted Lambert, Jules Dahlager, and a host of their followers--created paintings, drawings, and prints which have played a significant role in establishing not just the image of the park, but of Alaska, in the minds of the American public and the world.

Learn more about the history of the arts in national parks

Last updated: March 12, 2019

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