Niagara Gazette — Each year there would be around 30 artists-in-residence on the grounds, starting with Charles Simonds, who was described as an “earth artist” who built tiny villages of clay on his body.
There were other projects which, by today’s standards may seem a little odd, including one called “Beam Drop” where the artist dropped huge steel beams into concrete. There was a giant iguana made on the grounds, giant postcards including one of Superman saving a child at Niagara Falls, and a 16-foot tall Aeolian Harp that was played by the wind from the gorge.
There were some practical demonstrations as well, including classes on French cooking and brick making. There were puppeteers and air-supported structures.
The artists in residence included two notable music performers, Laurie Anderson and Philip Glass, both of whom were groundbreakers in the field of electronic music.
There was a time capsule created by the performance art group Ant Farm, whose other projects included driving a Cadillac through a flaming wall of television sets in a parking lot in San Francisco. Their Artpark project was much tamer, burying an Oldsmobile Vista with TV dinners, draft cards and a doll that said “Impeach Ford.”
Artists were paid a stipend of $300 dollars a week in 1975. They were expected to interact with visitors as Artpark’s artist-in-residence project was to emphasize “the process over product,” since the product was temporary.
The artists in residence program is best understood when considering the statement each artist received from Artpark before they began their projects:
“Artpark is an area for all the arts, a place for artists to perform, develop, experiment. Like life itself, Artpark is designed to breathe, to change with the seasons, to respond to nature. Accordingly, the artists who participate in the Artpark program are envisioned as the life-force coursing through the organism — giving it color, energy, warmth, posture, vitality, growth. With this concept in mind, we do not expect that artworks or their residue will remain from one season to the next. We expect to relocate, remove, cover over or allow the natural erosion process to occur.