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Artists find inspiration at Gettysburg battlefield

Written by Dustin B. Levy, The Evening Sun | Mar 14, 2016 8:13 PM
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Robert Beech will use his month-long residency at the Gettysburg National Military Park to replicate iconic photographs from the Battle of Gettysburg. (Photo: Submitted, The Evening Sun)

(Gettysburg) -- Gettysburg National Military Park is debuting an expansion of its Artists-in-Residence program this year, with plans for month-long residencies that will bring eight artists to the famed battlefield.

"Our goal is to find a way to connect with audiences that are not typical," said Thomas Forsyth, the deputy superintendent of the park. The program, being launched March 15 by the National Parks Art Foundation, will feature "First Friday" presentations for each artist to engage and interact with the public, as well as two workshops.

As a result, the park is seeking diversity among the participants and the mediums of art that will be presented to the public. The program, supported by The Gettysburg Foundation and the National Park Service, has announced its first two artists: Leigh Rydberg, a storyboard artist, and Robert Beech, who specializes in 19th century photography.

"We are very open to different mediums of art," said Forsyth. "We don't want to limit a particular style of art. We are recruiting all styles."

Rydberg, who will kick off the program on Tuesday, has worked in various capacities on television and feature films, including "Boardwalk Empire" and "The Dark Knight Rises." She has dabbled in acting, location scouting and extra casting. She described her career as a storyboard artist as working closely with production designers to "shoot the film before shooting the film."

Rydberg said she first developed an interest in the Civil War after visiting the park in Gettysburg. She said she is looking forward to using the battlefield as inspiration for her storyboard art.

"Often you're creating it from your own mind or imagination," she said. "It'll be nice to be in the place where the story takes place."

With her residency, Rydberg is excited about creating storyboards using the park grounds as inspiration. She also said she hopes she can educate others through her workshops and reveal the viability of a career as a storyboard artist.

"There's such a scope for imagination," she said. Rydberg's First Friday presentation will take place on April 1.

Beech, whose residency begins on April 15, is similarly interested in educating the public about his artistic niche. Although Beech spent 25 years of his career as an animator in Hollywood, his latest passion is documenting re-enactment units using the technology available at the time.

As a war re-enactor himself, Beech will be taking on a different role during his residency by viewing the Battle of Gettysburg through the lens of a 19th century war photographer.

Beech uses wet-plate tintypes in his photography, and he said he will use these centuries-old techniques to replicate iconic photographs from the battle on the precise locations they were taken.

Beech, who applied to the program over a year ago, said he is looking forward to interacting with the public during his residency.

"I also enjoy doing it for the public," he said. "In my case, I try to do as much of it as I can out where everyone can see how it works. I try to get people involved, especially young people."

Beech's First Friday presentation will take place on May 6. The park will hold all First Friday events at the Lincoln Railroad Station at 35 Carlisle St. in Gettysburg.

Forsyth said the residencies will allow the public to connect with history in new and exciting ways. Additionally, six slots remain for the residency program, so the National Parks Arts Foundation is still accepting applications for this year's residencies.

"We take it on proposal," said Tanya Ortega, the president of the National Parks Arts Foundation.

The applicants, which are scattered across the country and even include international artists, will receive a $1,000 stipend if selected. Ortega stressed the importance of the Gettysburg community showing interest in the program.

"We're looking for community involvement and support for the project," she said. "We'd like to get the community's voice a little more involved."

To apply

Visit www.nationalparksartsfoundation.org.

This article is part of a content-sharing partnership between The Evening Sun and WITF. 

Published in Adams County, News

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