The John Day Fossil Beds National Monument’s newest exhibit is a hands-on experience.
Artist-in-residence Reid Psaltis focused on exhibit accessibility by creating a touchable sculpture of Cynarctoides lemur, an extinct, fruit-eating dog. An open house will take place from 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15, at the Thomas Condon Paleontology and Visitor Center.
Psaltis is an illustrator, sculptor and natural history enthusiast from the Pacific Northwest and has made several trips to John Day Fossil Beds during his residency. Because his residency was almost two years long, it allowed time for project consultation with the park’s chief paleontologist for scientific accuracy, and feedback from people in the disability communities, which added more diverse perspectives.
The dog sculpture on display during the open house will be temporary until it is permanently replaced with cast bronze later this year.
“Visiting this park as a teenager played a big role in developing my interest in natural history,” Psaltis said. “Now that prehistoric life has become a regular subject in my art practice, it’s been really amazing to have that come full circle by contributing something to the visitor center. Using art to encourage interest in Oregon’s natural history is a great goal, and the efforts we took to make it accessible can now bring that to a whole new audience.”
Superintendent Patrick Gamman said, “Not only is the sculpture visually appealing, Reid took great efforts to provide palpable textures so that everyone can enjoy the exhibit. Come to the park and pet the extinct dog. I promise you, it won’t bite!”
Discover Your Northwest provided support for this project.
John Day Fossil Beds National Monument has been participating in the artist-in-residence program for over a decade. For more information, visit nps.gov/joda/getinvolved/supportyourpark/artist-in-residence.htm.