Dickinson children got their creative juices flowing as their imaginations journeyed far into the annals of history - nearly 65 million years to be exact.
To celebrate National Art Day, the Dickinson Museum Center invited children, teens and adults to participate in dinosaur art activities at the Badlands Dinosaur Museum. Activities included the casting of a dinosaur tooth and painting on real pieces of a plaster field jacket once used to contain dinosaur fossils.
"The plaster field jackets were cut by me from the mold that held the bones of a real-life dinosaur, and now these kids can take them home with them after painting them," Jorge Plata, a paleontology intern with the Dickinson Museum Center, said. "I'm teaching them how to draw T-Rex because it's most kids' favorite dinosaur, and a good way to express their favorite dinosaur is through art. If the kids can leave today with something that makes them happy then I consider that a success."
The museum was abuzz with giggles and there were many paint-stained fingers as children learned how to draw and paint their favorite dinosaur. One family present said that their visit was by happenstance and that it would most likely be one of the crowning events of their family vacation.
"We are just travelling through and saw the sign for a dinosaur museum and said, 'that sounds fun' and pulled into Dickinson," John Bridgeford, of Crookston, Minnesota, said. "The kids love dinosaurs and drawing and painting, so this is a great opportunity."
Lilli Bridgeford enthusiastically painted her favorite dinosaur, the Triceratops, but was sure to add some make-up to the dinosaur - because "she's a girl dinosaur."
"We are on our way to Yellowstone on a family vacation," Lindsay Lessard, also of Crookston, said. "The kids are having a blast with this."
Kamden and Mason Lessard each opted for the T-Rex for their artwork, something that the younger Kamden was eager to show.
According to Fuhrman, art and paleontology have a long history together - something he hopes to contribute to a resurgence of.
"Historically, the original part of the Dickinson Museum was the Yoakum Museum, which is our history side. Originally it started with a vision of history and art, and we've been taking some steps over the past couple of years to bring a little bit of that art component back," Robert Fuhrman, museum coordinator and historic preservationist for the city of Dickinson, said. " This year we hosted two art shows: one featuring more local art and the second was the Governor's Traveling Exhibit. On the paleontology side of things, dinosaur artwork has always been really popular."
Fuhrman added, "It's one of those things like battle art. Prior to the widespread use of photography, it was the only way you were going to see it. The same thing applies to paleontological art; it's one of the only ways that kids often get to experience dinosaurs. Dr. Denver Fowler and Jorge Plata have really looked for opportunities to take that to the next step."
When asked about the success of the program, Fuhrman said that he hoped it inspired the next generation of paleontologist or artists.
"Having an art program like the one we have today seems like a natural fit for us. We can sit back and say, 'you know, we've reached at least one kid today' and that's something good," Fuhrman said. "So if even one of the kids today leaves here with that little spark that makes them say it would be cool to be a paleontologist or even an artist, then we've done our job."
Plata, the enthusiastic intern from Houston, Texas, said that he remembers being the wide-eyed kid reading books on dinosaurs and today finds himself a mere handful of credits away from achieving his dream of becoming a paleontologist.
"I was fortunate to have this opportunity to come up here to Dickinson and intern with Dr. Fowler. Maybe one of these kids today will end up being interested in dinosaurs and decide that pursuing a career in the field is a great opportunity for their interest to become their profession," Plata said. "My parents thought it was just a stage I was going through, but I've levied this into a career and maybe they'll do the same."
The program will continue at the museum for the remainder of the week, concluding on Friday, June 21.
For more information, visit " target="_blank">dickinsonmuseumcenter.com.