June 28, 2016 8:15AM
Mark Switlik, BFA ’79 and originally from Parsons, Kan., is known for his big art, like the 43x41-foot Centennial Mural on PSU’s Mitchell Hall. Now he can add iconic and historic to the list of adjectives that describe his work.
Recently, Switlik completed the restoration of a sign that many visitors to Yosemite National Park revere as a symbol of decades of happy family vacations.
For many years, Switlik has had a studio in Arizona and his work can be seen on buildings throughout the southwest. The opportunity to work at a World Heritage Site that is also the foundation for America’s National Park System came about when Switlik was looking for some seasonal work.
“I had been looking for a temp job when I ran across an ad for a painter in Yosemite,” Switlik said. “I figured it would be an inspirational place to work because I had been hearing good reports from others who had visited the park.”
That was in 2014 and Switlik returned again in the fall of 2015.
Switlik said he has worked on a lot of projects at Yosemite, but the one that has drawn the most attention is his restoration and repainting of a sign that marks the Big Oak Flat entrance on the northwest side of the park. The sign has been a fixture at the entrance for decades and was badly in need of repair.
“I had to do some restoration to the sign before I could paint it,” Switlik said. “I didn’t try to count the hours I spent on the sign. Some days there would be 30 or 40 people who would stop me to take pictures. People told me they’d been taking family pictures at that sign for more than 30 years.”
Switlik said working in the park has been just as inspirational as he hoped it would be – snapshots of wildlife, snow-covered mountains and the iconic Half Dome are scattered throughout his social media posts.
And, Switlik said, he gets satisfaction from helping preserve Yosemite during a celebration of America’s national park system.
“It has been great helping keep the exteriors of these wonderful buildings properly maintained against the weather,” Switlik said.