Inspired by Olmsted Contest: Q & A with Mark Swartz

Cleo Falvey, Arts Writing Editor

The celebration of the centennial of the National Parks Service and the Organic Act of 1916 approaches. The Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site is offering a contest open to high school students who can artistically portray the importance of Olmsted and the Organic Act in a two-dimensional medium, according to the National Park Service website. The Sagamore sat down with Park Ranger and National Park Service Centennial Coordinator, Mark Swartz.

Why did you decide to host the contest?

The contest is something we came up with about a year and a half ago as we were looking forward to the national parks service centennial, which is this year. As part of the centennial, the National Park Service defined a primary goal for all the National Park Service sites. That goal is basically to engage the next generation of park visitors, supporters and advocates.

How does Frederick Law Olmsted relate to the contest?

Frederick Law Olmsted and his son Frederick Law Olmsted Jr, who were both landscape architects, had key roles in the history of national parks. One of our goals for the centennial for our site is to highlight the contributions of the Olmsteds in national parks history, so we wanted to connect high school students with that.

What is the contest like this year as opposed to the previous year?

This year in 2016, the contest is focused on the 100th anniversary of the National Park Services’ Organic Act. Students are again being asked to respond creatively by a two dimensional art or a piece of creative writing. The question is, “How does this section of the Organic Act inspire you today? And what does it mean to you in 2016?” Olmsted Jr. wrote this in 1916 to define the role of the National Parks Services.

What is the prize for the contest?

Last year, we honored the winners at an event we held at the Arnold Arboretum on August 9th, the 150th anniversary of the Yosemite and Mariposa Grove report. This year we are going to honor the winners at an event here at our site at Frederick Law Olmsted on August 25th, which is National Parks Service Founders’ Day, the actual 100th anniversary of the national parks and the Organic Act. I want to be sure to add that there are cash prizes. We will be exhibiting the winners’ artworks and runner’s up, as well as the writings, and we hope at least a representative sample of the finalists.