Growing up in New Brunswick, I have long been mindful of the love and pride that many feel for Fundy National Park, but until recently I had never been aware of how this connection came to be. Stemming from this curiosity, I grew interested in the art historical ties that Fundy holds through its enduring connection to artists and cultural institutions. Interestingly, Fundy National Park and the surrounding community have long been a cultural hub for artists. Beginning with the opening of the park in 1950, there have been courses for various forms of craft, workshops, cultural events, and artist residencies taking place within the park. The park now hosts a wide array of guests, from Mount Allison University students, to beloved bands and musicians.
Over the past summer, I received a grant from Mount Allison that allowed me to explore this topic further and analyze thematically and chronologically the origins of art in the park. This research studies the art history of Fundy National Park through a tourism and leisure-class theoretical framework as well as community engagement frameworks. It critically examines the traditional narratives of Canadian National Parks and questions the validity and source of these idealizations.
As part of this research, I interviewed a wide array of artists working in various disciplines. Mark Brennan and Emily Phillips were interviewed to discuss the environmental activism that artists bring to the park and the relationship between environmental art and environmental conservation. Similarly, Karen Stentaford, Dan Steeves, Kat Hallet, and Eryn Foster were contacted to discuss the potential of landscape and environmental art to be used as steppingstones for further exploration of contemporary artistic practices. Long-loved artists such as Lars Larsen are featured, as well as up and coming artists like Emma Delaney. These artists are working from and with the land. They work with themes of manufactured landscapes, social history, queer identity, and more. These themes are addressed by looking at the construction of Fundy National Park, the community engaging with it, and the history of this land: then translating this information into multidisciplinary pieces of visual culture.
After working in the tourism industry, and researching tourism in New Brunswick, I have discovered that New Brunswickers feel a certain sense of ownership over Fundy National Park and the important history it holds. Fundy National Park plays a central role in the cultural fabric of New Brunswick, and the more that we understand about this landscape, the more we can begin to understand the people that use it as inspiration and call this land home. This research can help us discover why Fundy is such a beloved part of New Brunswick’s culture and history. Similarly, the arts scene in New Brunswick is notoriously under-researched, and bringing all of these artists together under one platform helps strengthen the growing artistic community working from Fundy National Park. Art in the Park: Artists’ Responses to Fundy National Park is shared through an accessible online platform communicate this celebration of local, rural communities in an approachable format that artists, academics, and those with a general interest in New Brunswick’s history will enjoy.
Victoria MacBeath (she/her/elle) is a fourth-year art history student at Mount Allison University. Her research focuses on visual culture and the environment.