Dry Tortugas Artists-in-Residence: Denesa Chan and Gavin Mulvay



Award-winning filmmaker and nature photographer Denesa Chan and New Zealand born wind flight engineer, environmental activist and extreme conditions trekker specialist Gavin Mulvay, talk with Big Blend Radio about their September 2018 National Parks Arts Foundation (NPAF) residency at Dry Tortugas National Park. Plus, Park Ranger Curtis Hall provides an overview of the park’s history, nature and visitor experience.

With a background in Environmental Science, Denesa Chan specializes in creating abstract images based on ambient lighting and un-staged natural elements. She’s spent the past four years developing a photographic body of work for a book, which entails camping in sub-zero temperatures near the Arctic Circle, scaling a 14,000 foot mountain in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, sloshing through equatorial rain forests, exploring glacial caves, photographing the world’s rarest penguins, swimming with Manta Rays at night, and dangling out of doorless helicopters 15 feet from active lava. Ms. Chan, originally from Azusa, CA has worked as an actress in television and commercials for decades. She is also an activist and a world traveler, and has lived and worked in Ghana, and other African nations. She even faced down M-16’s as an International Neutral Observer in Mexico.

Gavin Mulvay is a multiple world-record holder, experienced survival specialist and aircraft engineer from New Zealand’s South Island who delights in exploring new wilderness areas and providing expert locations, logistical and technical support for the couple’s fieldwork. Gavin provides safety, logistical and equipment support as well as additional video footage and behind the scenes documentation.

About their upcoming stay in the keys, Chan said, “The Keys represent isolation, change and impermanence on a human timescale, disappearing and reappearing with the forces of nature, and those forces of nature are being impacted by our human activities. Change and impermanence are central themes in our work, and spending a month at the Loggerhead Key would enable us to expand that theme in an entirely new region that we have yet to connect with.”

As for what they hope to bring back from Loggerhead Key to show to the public in their events, Chan says the idea of caring for these ecosystems can get pretty abstract for most people and she sees her role and bridging this gap in perception. She adds: “We will showcase the park at times of day that are otherwise unavailable to visitors, during weather episodes that they wouldn’t otherwise experience, and we’d to reveal the coral reef and underwater sea life in a way that most people will never get to see in their lifetime. We can only save what we love, and facts and figures, while hugely important, don’t inspire a feeling of connection with our Earth.” More about Denesa’s work at www.DenesaChanPhotography.com

According to NPAF Founder Tanya Ortega, “The National Parks Foundation is always looking for active participation and input from lovers and sponsors of the arts. This work is an important contributing part of Florida’s unique culture and natural landscapes. It doesn’t happen without people! So if you want to volunteer, donate, or share your perspective, please contact us.”

Dry Tortugas National Park is located almost 70 miles (113 km) west of Key West. The 100-square mile park is mostly open water with seven small islands. Accessible only by boat or seaplane, the park is known the world over as the home of magnificent Fort Jefferson, picturesque blue waters, superlative coral reefs and marine life, and the vast assortment of bird life that frequent the area. Visitors enjoy camping, snorkeling, bird watching, fishing or just enjoying a view from the top of massive Fort Jefferson. Fort Jefferson is the largest all-masonry fort in the United States, built between 1846 and 1875 to protect the nation’s gateway to the Gulf of Mexico. More about Dry Tortugas NP at www.NPS.gov/drto

National Parks Arts Foundation is a non-profit 501c3 charitable foundation. The AIR Program is made possible through the philanthropic support of donors of all sorts ranging from corporate sponsors, small business, and art patrons and friends groups of the Parks. More about NPAF at www.NationalParksArtsFoundation.org

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