By Emily Stifler Explorebigsky.com Managing Editor
KLONDIKE GOLD RUSH NATIONAL PARK, Alaska – Big Sky animator, artist and photographer Corrie Francis Parks is planning for a month-long residency along the historic Chilkoot Trail this summer, outside of Skagway, Alaska.
Parks, 32, grew up in the San Francisco Bay area, studied animation at Dartmouth College and earned an MFA at the University of Southern California. She and her husband Thom moved to Big Sky last November from Aspen, Colo. Through her work as a freelancer, she creates animated films that combine digital and traditional techniques.
“I like to be very hands on. I do sand animation, stop motion and a lot of drawing. Then I take them into the computer and manipulate them in different ways, depending on technique and the story I want to tell,” she said, describing her work.
The residency is part of an international program, with the collaboration of the Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site (Parks Canada), Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park (U.S. National Park Service), Yukon Arts Centre and the Skagway Arts Council. It was developed to help connect people and national parks and national historic sites through art.
Parks will hike the 33-mile Chilkoot Trail looking for inspiration, gathering footage, talking to people, and being an ambassador for both for the park and the arts, she says.
The trail was one of two main routes used by gold rush stampeders to access the Klondike from southeast Alaska, but it was established by the Tlingit people long before that, as a trade route.
Today, it’s part of Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park and typically takes backpackers three to five days to walk. Historic mining equipment and other remnants of its past remain.
Parks’ husband Thom, a Yellowstone Club ski instructor, will accompany her as cinematographer and technical support. Spending two weeks in the backcountry, they plan to interview people along the way about “wilderness and history and how they interact.”
For the Yukon Arts Centre and the Skagway Arts Council, the residency is a way of fostering northern creative and cultural economy by bringing broader audiences into contact with contemporary artists, as well as exploring and challenging ideas and issues in landscape art.
Parks will help facilitate this mission by offering public lectures in Skagway and Whitehorse before and after the backcountry trip. She plans to present some of her past work and discuss “how the literal and imaginary can combine powerfully in animated documentary.”
Following the residency, Parks will return to Big Sky and compile her materials into a short animated film, likely a combination of photo, drawing and other mediums.
She doesn’t have the film completely planned; instead, she says, she’ll try to allow the narrative and the technique to intertwine, “growing together at the same time, so the whole film blooms organically rather than planning everything out and executing it.”
Parks, who moved to Big Sky in last fall, finds it an “inspiring place to be an artist.” This spring she is collaborating with the Big Sky Community Chorus on an animated projection for an April 9 performance.
Her animated documentary about New Zealand wilderness, “Conversing with Aotearoa,” was the catalyst for the Chilcoot project. That film was focused on wilderness perceptions based on cultural and experiential backgrounds, she says; for this film she’ll look at the same themes from a more historical angle.
“We want to incorporate not only the stories of the gold rush but also the of modern “pilgrimages” people make from all corners of the globe to walk in the footsteps of the prospectors and native peoples,” Parks said.
Learn more about Parks and the Chilkoot project at her website corriefrancis.com.
Watch “Conversing with Aotearoa” here: awntv.com/videos/converse-with-aotearoa-2