R Park Painting Session – September 21, 2014

The new Rendezvous Park, also known as R Park (note that it sounds a lot like “Our Park!”) is a special place indeed. Located on the west side of the Snake River near the Wilson Bridge, adjacent to the popular boat ramp and the newly opened Pathways pedestrian bridge, the park is one of a very few privately-owned public parks in the country. A collaboration between the Jackson Hole Land Trust and the LOR Foundation, the project reclaimed 40 acres of land that was a functioning gravel operation until 2012. With a lot of vision, planning, and sheer hard work, they have converted it into a natural park for use by the public. I actually painted in R Park last fall, when the work had begun in earnest, with dirt being moved and paths being formed. It was a beautiful spot even then, loaded with potential, but hard to picture in totality.

Finally this fall, on September 21, the site opened to the public, and what a celebration it was! A thousand-plus people, from babies to senior citizens, many with bikes, dogs, even unicycles, explored the cleverly considered grounds and discovered all sorts of surprises. There is a grove of cottonwoods strung with inviting hammocks, and a lagoon-like pond with a beach and an island, perfect for wading, swimming, kayaking, and paddleboarding. A wide open meadow that will be planted with native grasses and wildflowers, dotted with trees, just begs for summer picnics and kids playing tag. There are quiet corners for contemplation, and mounds with trails spiraling upwards for views over the park and across the cottonwoods to the Tetons beyond. Many visitors imagined sledding down those hills in the winter and ice skating on the pond, although on this day, the kids were skidding down the bare dirt and having a magnificent time doing it.

There were three artists with the View 22 project in attendance at the R Park celebration to add another dimension to the park experience: that of renewal and inspiration. Kay Northup and Lee Riddell set up their easels near the water. I got to paint from the top of the tallest mound. What a spectacular perspective! The spiral footpath to the top made it easy to haul my gear up and gave me constantly changing views on the way. From the apex, I could see across the whole park and get a sense of how everything connects. The fall colors were still blazing away that day, and though the skies had a thin cloud cover, the sun kept breaking through, making for some stunning views. I set up my easel facing the Tetons and the pond below, creating a quick impression in pastel. I had so much fun chatting with all the people, especially children, who had lots of great questions about art and about why I was there. I also had a fly-on-the-wall experience, since from this vantage point I was able to observe the sheer delight of the visitors as they climbed the hill, ran about the meadow, and splashed in the water.

After a while, I planned to move to another spot down along the river, but when I turned around to pack up, I was stopped dead by the deep blue of the water in another pond surrounded by golden cottonwood foliage. So I turned to the west and got right back to work. I am quite sure that I was not alone in being inspired from all directions in Rendezvous Park. I look forward to experiencing it in all the seasons, with paint and without, with my bike, on foot, with my daughter, husband, dog, and friends. The vision has definitely been realized!

—Jennifer Hoffman

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