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A Postal Salute to National Parks: Ethel Kessler on Designing Commemorative Stamps

Evening Program

Thursday, September 22, 2016 - 6:45 p.m.
Code: 1W0081
Stamp featuring Grand Canyon National Park, 2016, designed by Ethel Kessler (USPS)

The centennial year of the National Park Service is being marked in ways large and small—and some are even smaller than others. The US Postal Service has released a pane of Forever stamps that celebrate 16 national parks, created by award-winning stamp designer Ethel Kessler.

The commemorative collection features art and photography representing the regional diversity of the National Park System, showing landscapes, plants, animals, artwork, objects, and structures found in or associated with a national park. Kessler arranged the stamps on the pane to approximate their locations around America: Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve on the upper left; Maine’s Acadia National Park on the upper right; Hawaii’s Haleakala National Park on the bottom left; and Florida’s and Mississippi’s Gulf Islands National Seashore on the bottom right.

She discusses how she approached and carried out the assignment, the most recent one in her role as design consultant to USPS for the creation of commemorative postal stamps, a position she’s held since 1997. The Bethesda-based Kessler, who has designed or art-directed more than 250 stamps including the iconic Breast Cancer Awareness stamp, also offers a behind-the-scenes look at how the smallest of canvases can create a memorable artistic impact.

Smithsonian Connections

The Postal Museum’s online Art of the Stamp gallery offers the backstory of the 1998 Breast Cancer Awareness Stamp, on which art director Ethel Kessler collaborated with illustrator Whitney Sherman.

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