In this post: my connection to Gene Stratton-Porter and a primer on the IAC’s Arts in the Parks program.
My first introduction to Gene Stratton-Porter was as a child when I attended Conservation Camp in the Rome City area; the program highlighted the conservation work of Statton-Porter. This was a three-day over-night camp where I learned about soil erosion, water conservation, etc. Since my work with Stratton-Porter as an adult has begun, I’ve looked for this camp for my own kid and it seems to be lost to time.
As a person who has grown up in the rural parts of Indiana, spending ample amounts of time roaming the woods, lakes, and streams, I have a keen sense of communion with our local flora and fauna. Some of my early sketchbooks have nature studies of dragon and damsel flies, among other things.
It wasn’t until later that I learned the stream that runs by my childhood home is a run-off ditch for the surrounding farm fields. Fingers crossed that the multitude of hours spent swimming and wading in agricultural chemical detritus didn’t have too much an adverse impact on me.
Because of these things, the historic site at Gene Stratton-Porter in Rome City, IN, was my first pick for the Indiana Arts Commission’s Arts in the Parks program. I first learned of the program from my artist friend Tobias Studios, who used the grant fund to organize Art Camp at Chain O’Lakes State Park in 2016 and 2018.
The IAC is the State of Indiana’s arts commission; they provide public support for the arts in Indiana with this vision: “The arts everywhere, every day, for everyone in Indiana.” The IAC Arts in the Parks program, now in its third year, provides funding for arts and public engagement in state parks and historic sites.
The Arts in the Parks program is a terrific opportunity for artists of all disciplines: visual arts, music, dance, theatre, etc. Check out a list of past and current participants on the IAC’s website here. I recommend this funding to all artists with which I speak: this is a way to fund your career and develop your talents.
For the past two years, I have applied and been awarded grant funds through the Arts in the Parks program to work at the Gene Stratton-Porter Historic Site in Rome City, IN. The grant fund allows artists to write their own programs-which is a unique opportunity. Artists can apply to do whatever works best with their skill set, rather than trying to work around strict rules set forth by a funder.
The IAC defines the program in this way: “Arts in the Parks and Historic Sites is a grant program of the Indiana Arts Commission that weaves arts activities into our state’s rich cultural heritage, natural beauty, and rural settings. In partnership with Indiana Department of Natural Resources properties and Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites, this program funds artists, nonprofit organizations, and public entities to produce arts activities that actively engage participants and highlight participating locations’ uniqueness.”
Artists can apply with whatever kind of program they would like that fits within these criteria. I applied to do a two-week watercolor narrative residency at the Gene Stratton-Porter Historic Site in Rome City, IN. In the applications, I also offered to do two watercolor classes on location in the gardens, as part of the public engagement expectation. Both years I applied, I was awarded a grant.
More specifically, during the watercolor narrative residency, I vowed to work in the gardens of Stratton-Porter to create various nature studies as well as narrative illustrations interpreting her poetry. Both years I created five nature studies and two narrative illustrations. The grant cycle is open again this year and I am eagerly applying to continue my work with Stratton-Porter and her legacy.
Stay tuned for more posts about the IAC’s On Ramp program, more about Gene Stratton-Porter and her life and work, and a more in-depth look at work I’ve created in the Arts in the Parks program.