Keeper of the Plans

National parks come to life in poster series at Wichita State

Wichita State University students examine works in “Type Hike,” a typographical exploration of national parks.
Wichita State University students examine works in “Type Hike,” a typographical exploration of national parks. Courtesy photo

Is it a fundraiser or a work of art?

Or can it be both?

A new exhibit on display in Wichita State University’s Clayton Staples Gallery features all 59 of the country’s national parks – imagined through creative typography and graphic design.

“Type Hike,” which was curated by designers James Louis Walker and David Rygiol, is a nonprofit creative project featuring the work of 60 graphic designers and includes a poster promoting the centennial itself.

Ostensibly, the exhibit celebrates the centennial of the National Park Service, which was Aug. 25, 2016.

Each national park has its own poster – ranging from Haleakala’s traditional postcard-style design to more avant-garde pieces like the Petrified Forest.

The designers, which include well-known artists such as Jessica Hische and Joshua Noom, were given creative liberty to interpret each park as they saw fit.

That’s an impressive task, considering many of them don’t live close to the national parks they designed works for. In Wichita, the closest national park is Arkansas’ Hot Springs National Park, just over seven hours’ drive away.

“A bunch of the designers we have are from areas where they have to travel quite a distance (to a national park),” Walker said. “Some designers are in Oregon, so they have a plethora of close options, but I think there is something to be said about someone from somewhere like Wichita – nearly legitimately the center of the country – still being interested in the natural world and having an appreciation for this.”

All sales from prints of the posters – which range anywhere from $2 for a postcard to $49 for a 24-by-36-inch screen print – will benefit the National Park Service Foundation.

The exhibit was completed around late October, and after a couple of months of selling prints, the “Type Hike” nonprofit donated $5,000 to the foundation, Walker said.

“There’s some aspect of appreciating the work but also the fact that we’re not keeping a single bit – it’s all going back to the parks,” Walker said. “I think that’s why they’re so eager to partner with us. We’re genuinely trying to help them out, especially in today’s climate.”

Walker said most people who have purchased prints have done so not because of the designs themselves – they’ve done so because they have memories at that park.

“That’s the power of a lot of these parks,” he said. “To see how they affect people’s lives is a true testament to how great they are.”

Walker and Rygiol are planning another poster series in May called “Shores,” which will feature the country’s National Seashores and Lakeshores. After that, they plan on curating a similar series featuring the trail system.

The exhibit will be on display in the Clayton Staples Gallery (inside Wichita State’s McKnight Art Center) through March 31. The gallery is free and open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Prints will not be sold at the gallery – they can be bought at www.typehike.com/shop.

Matt Riedl: 316-268-6660, @RiedlMatt

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