Spending September as Bandelier’s Artist in Residence Ties Past and Future Together for Poet Sarah Colby – Los Alamos Reporter

Sarah Colby, right, enjoys the calm of a late fall afternoon in Frijoles Canyon at Bandelier National Monument with her husband, Cloyd, at the end of her month in the Canyon as artist-in-residence . Photo by Mayor O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com

Sarah Colby presents various writing prompts to visitors to Bandelier National Monument during her September residency at the park. Photo by Mayor O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com

BY MAYOR O’NEILL
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The Los Alamos reporter first met Bandelier National Monument artist-in-residence Sarah Colby in June 2019, when she brought her mother, Sonya Lovold Atkinson, to the park for a surprise visit.

Colby had come across a photo in the 1941 tourist brochure and thought he recognized his grandfather in it, which his Atkinson confirmed. What happened was a surprise mother-daughter trip to Bandelier which was a gift for both of them. All these years later for Colby to find herself at Bandelier as an artist in residence tied it all together and after a month in Frijoles Canyon, walking in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother, she seemed sad that her stay there is over…for now.

Colby holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Sierra Nevada, now part of the University of Nevada system. Since it was a low-residency program, he was able to stay committed even if being a military spouse had to move halfway through. Colby’s husband, Cloyd, is a 40-year military veteran.

Earning this degree launched Colby as a serious writer, giving her the writing skills to add to the ideas she already had. She emphasized poetry and one of her goals had been to write a manuscript of her houses reflecting the military experience. When she was at Bandelier in 2019, she had looked into the artist-in-residence program and applied, but then COVID hit.

When the program reopened, Colby thought it would be the perfect opportunity for her.

“A month in the canyon would be perfect. I could go and immerse myself in writing and immerse myself in this place where my grandmother lived, where my mother used to spend time – and I would have time to write. So I applied,” she said.

The application process is quite rigorous and is open to artists of all genres – studio artists, photographers, writers, dancers and musicians. Some programs are run by the National Parks Association and others, like Bandelier’s, are run by the park itself. Because it’s a smaller park, Bandelier doesn’t offer an allowance like some parks, but Colby treasured the little casita provided to him in the heart of Frijoles Canyon.

Colby’s interaction with Bandelier’s audience throughout her residency involved a station she set up at the visitor’s center that included prompt cards to write a haiku, acrostic poem, or piece of flash fiction until 500 words with a beginning, middle and end. .

Colby’s prompts led visitors to write descriptions of what they experienced while visiting Bandelier and included physical objects, colors, sounds, smells, feelings and more, allowing them to become part of the history of the park in their own way. Most of the cards were displayed on a board in the visitor center, but many people chose to take them home.

“Writing gives people another way to connect with their park. Everyone takes pictures, everyone grabs the brochure, they get something from the gift shop – it’s a different medium for them. For me, it’s important because you think differently when you write, you react differently when you write,” Colby said.

As Colby strolled through Frijoles Canyon with her husband towards the evening of her last official day at the park, it looked like she was already planning to return home away from home in the future.

Children and adults from all over took the opportunity to contribute their haiku, acrostic poems and prose to Sarah Colby’s Artist-in-Residence September project at Bandelier National Monument. Photo by Mayor O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com

Some of the writing left by visitors to Bandelier National Monument in response to an artist-in-residence program set up by poet Sarah Colby in September at the park. Photo by Mayor O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com

September artist-in-residence at Bandelier National Monument, poet Sarah Colby at the Frijoles Canyon Visitor Center. Photo by Mayor O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com

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