Founders Day Art is Afire!

Sketching in front of Montezuma Castle

Sketching in front of Montezuma Castle

Penny Wagner/NPS Photo

Quick Facts


A Call to Action
Action Item:
Arts Afire
Also Promotes:
History Lesson
Year Accomplished:

In celebration of Founder's Day 2012-the 96th birthday of the National Park Service- we held a youth-centered art event at Montezuma Castle, Montezuma Well, and Tuzigoot National Monuments. Art played a major role in the creation of National Parks by bringing the beauty and splendor of our nation's landscapes to the attention of Congress and the public. The national park concept is credited to artist George Catlin who wrote about the need for a "nation's park" to preserve and protect the wilderness and wildlife of our nation. On a trip to the Dakotas in 1832, he worried about the impact of America's westward expansion on Indian civilization, wildlife, and wilderness. They might be preserved, he wrote, "by some great protecting policy of a magnificent park...A nation's park, containing man and beast, in all the wild and freshness of their nature's beauty!" In addition, artist Thomas Moran captured the beauty and splendor of the Western landscapes. It was his sketches and the photographs taken by a fellow member of the Hayden Geological Survey of 1871, William Henry Jackson, which seized the attention of the public and influenced Congress to establish the Yellowstone region as the first national park in 1872. Moran's paintings and Jackson's photographs exposed the grandeur of the Yellowstone region better than any words could describe it, and so persuaded President Grant and Congress to set aside Yellowstone for future generations.

To honor the impact of art in the history of the National Park Service we invited children of all ages-our future stewards-to come out and get creative. We provided the art supplies for children and adults to illustrate their experience at our parks and capture their vision on paper. Using watercolors, crayons, and colored pencils children and their parents created their very own works of art and showcased the beauty of our parks. This activity gave kids the opportunity to be creative and take part in a different way of enjoying our sites. The children were excited artists and produced some wonderful interpretations of our three National Monuments.

Our birthday celebration was a perfect time to nurture life-long connections to the outdoors and the incredible heritage of our country.  Over 100 people participated in the event by creating their own artwork or learning about Founder's Day and the impact of art and artists on the National Park Service. While the children worked on their art there was a lot of discussion about the importance of the National Park Service and the preservation of our nation's history and cultural heritage. Many parents talked about their family trips to National Parks and how happy they were to be celebrating the birthday of the National Park Service at a National Monument. In the end, they took their artwork home with them but we photographed the art first to share their creativity with the public. Our Founder's day art celebration was a success!  To see the art, click here.

"The parks do not belong to one state or to one section.... The Yosemite, the Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon are national properties in which every citizen has a vested interest; they belong as much to the man of Massachusetts, of Michigan, of Florida, as they do to the people of California, of Wyoming, and of Arizona."

-          Stephen T. Mather, NPS Director, 1917-1929

"The national park idea has been nurtured by each succeeding generation of Americans. Today, across our land, the National Park System represents America at its best. Each park contributes to a deeper understanding of the history of the United States and our way of life; of the natural processes which have given form to our land, and to the enrichment of the environment in which we live."

-          George B. Hartzog, Jr., NPS Director, 1964-1972