By David Markham
The idea that “art can investigate, celebrate, or imagine anything the artist chooses” is one of Kirsten Taylor’s favorite things about being an artist, and something she’ll get to demonstrate during a first-ever JCPRD art residency going on now.
This short-term residency program will respond artistically, and amplify the important work of land restoration --specifically, the removal of the invasive species bush honeysuckle.
“Art for me personally is about seeing and communication,” Taylor said. “By directing the viewer’s gaze with aesthetic elements, I can communicate ideas, a story, or bring up questions. Because my artistic practice focuses on humans and our relationship with nature, introduced, invasive species demonstrate the interconnectedness of our ecosystems and allow me to facilitate discussions about human involvement in and responsibility to our more-than-human world.”
Taylor started in JCPRD’s new Art and Natural Resources Residency on Aug. 1 and will continue through October 2022 in the project, which encompass a three-week immersion experience with the JCPRD Natural Resources team in Shawnee Mission Park, the creation of an ephemeral temporary art piece, an artist-led workshop and talk back, and a community outreach project. No dates have been set for the community outreach portion of the project but it is anticipated these will take place in the last weeks of October.
“The Art and Natural Resources Residency was imagined during the Public Art Master Planning process, completed in 2021,” explained JCPRD Superintendent of Culture Susan Mong. “As opportunities were explored for public art to spotlight the natural spaces and land restoration efforts of JCPRD, a residency emerged as a great opportunity. So much happens quietly through the hard work of staff and volunteers and is not widely known. The goal is for this residency to both showcase the work of the natural resources team and educate the public on why these ecology efforts matter so much to the health of our region.”
“Immersing an artist in the work of our natural resource team helps focus some visibility on a dedicated team of individuals that work mostly alone in remote natural areas across 8,700 acres,” said JCPRD Field Biologist Matt Garrett, who Taylor will be working with. “The JCPRD natural resource team has removed hundreds of acres of invasive species and planted 1,000+ acres of prairie across the county. Since 2019, with increased funding, the team has worked tirelessly to make district parks resilient to the changing landscape. I see the residency as an opportunity for an accomplished artist to work closely with my team and then using that support to create a new piece of art that ties the community to the local wild areas Johnson County residents hold so dear.”
“The Art and Natural Resources Residency with JCPRD compliments my existing artistic practice,” said Taylor, who is a multimedia artist whose work questions the traditionally Western hierarchy of humans above nature by investigating the relationships between humans and the more-than-human world. She holds a bachelor’s degree in studio art from Baylor University and was a post-baccalaureate student in ceramics at Utah State University. Currently, she attends the University of Kansas as a student in the masters of fine arts program. Taylor has exhibited nationally at venues including the Indianapolis Art Center, Starbrick Gallery in Nelsonville, Ohio, and the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center in Kansas City, Mo. She was awarded commissions by KU’s Spencer Museum of Art in 2020 and 2021.
“The Art selection committee’s vision for the residency aligned closely with my own values when approaching public art and community engagement,” Taylor said. I hope that my participation in this residency will bring about thoughtful discussions about our relationship with nature and spark imaginations for how to be a better community member in our more-than-human world. Professionally I hope to continue to take on similar projects in the future and I hope that this residency will demonstrate my ability to do so.”
The current residency was made possible in part through a 2022 grant from the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission.
The intent is for the current residency to be the first of many at JCPRD, and another is already planned for 2023.
“JCPRD plans to offer an art residency opportunity annually,” Mong said. “In 2023, this will take place in the spring with a focus on prairie restoration, focusing on the prairie spaces at Kill Creek Park. The selected artist will embed with our natural resources team and respond artistically to these efforts and help illustrate why a healthy prairie ecosystem is important to biodiversity in this region.”
More information about the residency and its outreach components can be found at JCPRD.com/1759/Art-and-Natural-Resources-Residency. Questions about how to support this and future projects can be directed to [email protected]