The Art Rangers, an interview with Oscar Nilsson

Art Rangers National Park Foundation

From monument reductions to budget cuts, it’s not news that our public lands are under attack. Inspired by the beauty of America’s natural resources, Oscar Nilsson and Alex Tatem decided to find ways to increase funding for public lands: through art.

They recently launched their new project, the Art Rangers, a platform for photographers to sell their work. All proceeds go to the Art Rangers’ first partner, the National Park Foundation.

I sat down with founder Oscar Nilsson to dig into all things Art Rangers. Read on to find which parks inspire him and what he’s excited to accomplish with the Art Rangers.

Art Rangers National Park Foundation
Yosemite. Photo by Oscar Nilsson

Which national parks do you hold dearest to your heart?

I’m gonna have to say Yosemite since that’s the first one I went to after moving here and the first one where my mind was completely blown away by all its beauty. So many memories I have from there, and so many more to create

Where did you get the inspiration for Art Rangers?

I moved to the States five years ago from Sweden. I’m amazed by all the natural resources in the United States.

As a creative, I’ve always found inspiration and an escape in the national parks and have been trying to find a way to give back since I moved here.

A lot of my fellow photographers share the same appreciation for the outdoors. We wanted to create a platform where art inspired by the parks helps save them.

Art Rangers National Park Foundation
Yosemite. Photo by Eric Rubens c/o the Art Rangers

Why did you choose this business model? Do you think it will be “profitable” for your partners?

We wanted to create a platform where artists can give back to the national parks that have given them so much. I believe there always will be a demand for art.

My hope is that the Art Rangers can be there to provide an alternative to traditional print stores and offer a way to get beautiful art, while also helping to preserve those same parks for future generations.

It’s one thing to ask someone to donate $50 to save the parks. We hope to be able to get people to care by seeing the very beauty we are trying to protect, and create an opportunity for people to simultaneously buy and give back.

More than anything though, our wish is that more people become aware of the difficulties the national parks are facing with funding.

How did you choose the National Park Foundation as a partner?

We were in conversations with multiple non-profits with similar causes, but National Park Foundation was the organization we landed on after our conversations. We know they will put the money to the best use.

“Art and parks go hand in hand, so we’re thrilled about this new partnership with the Art Rangers,” said Alanna Sobel, senior manager of communications at the National Park Foundation. “Artistic renderings of places like Old Faithful were what originally inspired people to preserve our country’s treasures as national parks more than a century ago. Still today, art has that powerful effect on people.”

What are ways you can educate consumers on issues that our parks are currently facing?

Our focus so far has been on getting the platform up and running. The art gallery will be our priority, but we definitely intend on spreading information around the national parks through our social channels.

We also have a planned live art event in San Francisco beginning of next year that will mix art with information about the national parks.

Art Rangers National Park Foundation
Great Sand Dunes. Photo by Oscar Nilsson

That being said we have created a Facebook group where we’re trying to build a community of “Art Rangers”. The goal is to have meaningful conversations, discuss the state of the parks, give recommendations and perhaps even plan trips together.

Are there plans to include other public lands that are not NPS units?

We started with the 59 United States national parks for now. Who knows? We might open up to monuments, national forests, in the future.

At this point, it’s more of a logistical question. We’re uploading images to new galleries individually. We’re still taking submissions from artists and trying to fill images of the 59 national parks for now.

How do you pick the photographers that you work with?

It’s open for any photographer to donate images right now. Due to our partnership with SmugMug, the online gallery is national park inspired photography.

Art Rangers National Park Foundation
Zion. Photo by Oscar NIlsson.

Are you opening to working with artists in different mediums in the future?

We’re hosting a live event this spring, along with other pop-up events in the future. There will be far more mediums present. We’re talking to oil painters, musicians, tattoo artists, and more, that all have based their art on their inspiration from the national parks.

Providing free work is a big point of contention in the creative industry. Has it been difficult to source photos from artists for the Art Rangers?

We hope that photographers just want to do good for our national parks. In addition to goodwill, all the donating artists currently have a chance to win a camera from our partner, Sony.

That contest will last through the end of the year, but we have sponsors for future contest packages.

What is your criteria for selecting the art?

For the online gallery, we do require high quality photos for printing and no watermarks. In addition, we also try to consider how likely images are to sell as a print. For the live gallery, we will be expanding far past just photography.

We don’t put any parameters on what we’re looking for. We keep it open for interpretation as long as it is of, or inspired by, the national parks.

Art Rangers National Park Foundation
Death Valley. Photo by Dirk Dallas c/o the Art Rangers

Whose work would you love to have on the Art Rangers?

Oh boy, there are so many! Ryan McGinley, Sam Larson, Benjamin Heath, Christian Watson, Lorraine Loots… But really, anyone with a genuine passion for the outdoors and the preservation of the national parks would be amazing to have onboard!

Aside from live galleries and pop-up events, what’s next on the list for the Art Rangers?

We’ve been talking about a coffee table magazine. It would incorporating beautiful pieces of art depicting the national parks, along with important information about the state of the parks and how you can take action. All proceeds of magazine sales would go straight towards the National Park Foundation.

Art Rangers National Park Foundation
Yosemite. Photo by Jesse Televara c/o the Art Rangers

Any last thoughts?

We want this project to live on.  The team at the Art Rangers doesn’t make any profit. We ensure that that any proceeds go one hundred percent towards the national parks. We want photographers to feel like we’re putting their art pieces to the best possible use.

Thank you, Oscar, for taking the time to chat with me. I’m excited to follow along with the Art Rangers. I can’t wait to see where things go, and, of course, acquire more art.

Looking for prints to decorate your home, office, van or wherever? Check out what’s for sale on the Art Rangers.

Are you a photographer? Become an Art Ranger.

Featured image by Jesse Televara c/o the Art Rangers.