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Artist in Residency Programs in National Parks

Updated on December 25, 2017
Natalie Frank profile image

Natalie Frank has a Ph.D. in Clinical psychology. She specializes in Pediatric Psychology and Behavioral Medicine.

Starting in the 19th century with the Hudson River School, artists, writers, scholars and researchers have chosen to work in national parks in order to gain a unique voice and perspective for their endeavors. In present times, the beauty, peace and natural surroundings of the national park system in the U.S. continue to provide inspiration for creative individuals. Currently, there are more than 50 Artist in Residency (AIR) programs in parks across the country. There are programs for visual artists, writers, musicians, and other disciplines. Residencies typically last for two to four weeks. Most programs include, at a minimum, lodging and some include stipends for travel, food, equipment and other expenses.

There are a wide variety of programs in numerous types of surroundings with different resources provided. Some will put residents in remote wilderness cabins or have residents accompany park patrols while others house residents in fully furnished apartments in park headquarters or in rustic cabins located near visitor areas on park grounds. Often, due to the physical requirements of the program or nature and location of the lodgings applicants are expected to be in good physical condition and to be able to tolerate periods of isolation.

The degree to which the resident has access to resources such as car services and other artists or staff also varies from park to park. Frequently, residents are invited to take part in park programs through the process of sharing their work with the public. Parks have different programs for specific disciplines and not all parks offer programs for all types of artists. Each park also has its own application process and deadline so if you are interested in applying to a program, visit the specific park site to gain further information. Information for three of the current park residency programs are presented below followed by a list of all the national parks with AIR programs. As programs require accepted applicants' projects to have an interpretive element that is relevant to park themes, each entry includes a suggested reading to help with framing proposals.

Writing residency in Badlands National Park
Writing residency in Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

All U.S. citizens, writers, composers, visual and performing artists are invited to apply to this program in South Dakota. Successful application to this program is significantly influenced by the applicant’s ability to interpret the environment of the park and significant themes through their work. Two residencies of four to six weeks each between September 15th and May 15th are offered each year.

There is a strong commitment to rural youth so applicants that can connect to this emphasis are often preferred. All residents are required to develop and present four sessions that will introduce school children to the residents discipline and medium, specifically as it applies to the Badlands. Residents are also expected to interact with park visitors around their chosen discipline and to make a presentation to park staff and/or visitors. Within one year of the end of the residency, attendees donate one agreed upon work that interprets the themes related to the Badlands that is placed in the park museum.

The residency provides a fully furnished apartment which is located in a housing complex at the headquarters for the park. Residents are allowed access to the park library. Internet is available in the visitor center. Additionally, costs for travel, meals and other expenses are reimbursed up to $300. Basic art supplies are available for personal use. A government vehicle is made available for the resident’s use when traveling to and from the school program. Bicycles are also available for exploring the area. Residents are enrolled as volunteers for the park, which covers them under Worker’s Compensation for injuries or illness that result from something related to their residency. Applications are reviewed in July with accepted residents notified by August 1st.

Suggested Reading to Help Frame Proposed Projects: Badland National Park (Images of America) by Jan Cerney tells the story of the formation of the Badlands and the national park through historical photographs. The book includes dozens of photographs from the parks museum collection which is rarely on exhibit. Pictures were also taken from a collection seldom viewed photos from the State Archives of South Dakota. Photos can provide inspiration, which enables those who wish to attend the residency to creatively capture park related themes, features, and location. This can increase the liklihood of a successful application.


Would you apply for an Artist in Residence Program at a National Park?

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Everglades National Park Artists Residency
Everglades National Park Artists Residency

Everglades National Park Artist in Residence Program

At the southernmost tip of Florida lies the Everglades National Park, the only subtropical wilderness in North America. The residency program offered here (AIRIE), for visual artists, composers and writers is more rugged than most and requires residents to be almost entirely self-sufficient.

It is hoped that the artists will give a unique voice to the Everglades for present and future generations and that the public will come to know the area through the eyes of the artists. Residents are expected to have an environmental awareness and a sense of connection to AIRIE’s mission. They should also be committed to sharing their experiences in a practical way with visitors and staff.

Accepted applicants are provided with a combination living and work space in the Royal Palm area, which is near Park Headquarters, the Visitor Center, and the Anhinga Trail. The Anhinga Trail is one of the most popular in the park because of it's abundance of wildlife, and is a favorite hiking trail for residents. This location allows for easy access to the city of Homestead as well as the 1.5 million acres that comprise the Everglades.

Residents must bring personal supplies, food and equipment needed for their artistic endeavor. Stipends for transportation are not generally provided. However, micro grants are available on a case by case basis, which can be used to fund to fund expenses and travel.

Residents volunteer for a few hours during the course of their residency interacting with a variety of visitors and staff. This may involve informal interactions or more formal presentations such as lectures, demonstrations or short workshops. The resident can also create their own unique type of project to engage visitors and staff members. Examples might include photography or sketching walks or walks that pass features or landmarks which served as the inspiration for writing scenes.

Following the completion of the residency, each resident is expected to contribute one work to the park, which reflects their efforts during their stay in the Everglades. Residencies last for up to a month and are granted to individuals who want to contribute to the public comprehension and appreciation of the park and the Everglades.

Twelve artists are accepted each year. Dates of the residency are a joint decision between the resident and the residency director. AIRIE always seeks to identify special events or opportunities for their residents and resident dates take this into consideration. Applications are due June 15th.

Suggested Reading: Everglades: Outside and Within by Marion Belanger - This book is a photographic observation of the environment of the Everglades. It presents a commentary on the struggle between human enterprises and the efforts to tame nature with the boundless wetlands of the Everglades. It recognizes that nature and culture are intertwined and interdependent as witnessed both from within the wilderness and from without. The book is a beautiful presentation of the surroundings from several different viewpoints inside and outside the park. It can help applicants to the AIR programs to be successful in the bid to attend, by providing an understanding of the various struggles that relate to the continuation of the park, an emphasized theme of the area.

Great Smokey Mountain National Park Artist in Residence Program
Great Smokey Mountain National Park Artist in Residence Program

Great Smokey Mountain National Park Artist in Residence Program

This residency is open to both professional and emerging artists including writers, musicians, craftsmen, composers, painters, sculptors, photographers, storytellers, performance artists, and videographers. Residencies last for four to six weeks. They look for residents whose work is related to the park’s interpretive themes. These themes include:

  • Diversity and Abundance

  • Continuum of Human Activity

  • Refuge of Scenic Beauty

There is a balance between outreach and service to the public and personal time for artists to pursue the project described in their application. Residents offer three programs for the public in the form of workshops, experiential learning, classroom activities or other methods of engaging visitors and the surrounding community. It is expected that residents will produce work that helps promote an understanding of and respect for this national park. Residents are required to donate one work to the park which was produced during or after the residency in the year following the resident’s stay.

The park is located in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Residents are housed in a furnished apartment which is within the park boundaries. Although food and travel are not covered, artists receive a $300 stipend to reimburse them for materials and other expenses. An opportunity exists to collaborate with the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts as appropriate to the artist’s medium. The deadline for applications is March 15th. Residencies occur from mid-May through November.

Suggested Reading: Strangers in High Places, The Story of the Great Smoky Mountains by Michael Frome. This book is ideal for nature lovers, environmentalists, and artists of all kinds. Frome explores the story of the Great Smoky Mountains, their history, inhabitants across, land struggles, politics, legislation and the formation of the national park. The author also discusses the continued threats to the park and our role in protecting its natural beauty and survival as stewards of the land. The book is beautifully written and the photographs illustrate the history of the area and the stunning environment that makes up this parkland. This book can help increase the likelihood that applications to the AIR program will be approved by providing a comprehensive understanding of environmental factors related to the park. This touches on several park themes.

National Parks with Artist in Residence Programs

  1. Everglades National Park

  2. Big Cypress National Preserve

  3. Congaree National Park

  4. Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

  5. Fire Island National Seashore

  6. Weir Farm National Historic Site

  7. Cape Cod National Seashore

  8. Acadia National Park

  9. Saint Gaudens National Historic Site

  10. Marsh Billings Rockefeller National Historical Park

  11. Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

  12. Gettysburg National Military Park

  13. Catoctin Mountain Park

  14. Manassas National Battlefield Park

  15. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

  16. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

  17. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

  18. Isle Royale National Park

  19. Herbert Hoover National Historic Site

  20. Homestead National Monument of America

  21. Agate Fossil Beds National Monument

  22. Rocky Mountain National Park

  23. Mesa Verde National Park

  24. Craters of the Moon National Monument Preserve

  25. Great Basin National Park

  26. John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

  27. Crater Lake National Park

  28. Whiskeytown National Recreation Area

  29. Golden Gate National Recreation Area

  30. Joshua Tree National Park

  31. Grand Canyon National Park

  32. Petrified Forest National Park

  33. Capitol Reef National Park

  34. Zion National Park

  35. Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument

  36. Chiricahua National Monument

  37. Devils Tower National Monument

  38. Mount Rushmore National Memorial

  39. Badlands National Park

  40. Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park

  41. Denali National Park and Preserve

  42. Glacier National Park

  43. Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area

  44. Guadalupe Mountains National Park

  45. Hot Springs National Park

  46. Padre Island National Seashore

  47. Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site

  48. Zion National Park

  49. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

  50. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

  51. Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

  52. Haleakala National Park

© 2017 Natalie Frank


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    • Natalie Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Natalie Frank 

      2 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Glad you found it educational, Shaloo. Thanks for the comment.

    • swalia profile image

      Shaloo Walia 

      2 years ago from India

      very informative hub!

    • Natalie Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Natalie Frank 

      2 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Thanks Lauren! Glad you find them useful. Thanks for the comment.

    • Natalie Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Natalie Frank 

      2 years ago from Chicago, IL

      I'm so glad you find them useful. If you have any suggestions for additional articles that you would be interested in let me know and I'll do my best to write them.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Your articles on residencies are so useful! I wish I had known about all these sooner!

    • Natalie Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Natalie Frank 

      2 years ago from Chicago, IL

      You're welcome, Kari. Thanks for stopping by.

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 

      2 years ago from Ohio

      I think going to a National Park residency would be wonderful! I never realized there were so many. Thanks for the information.

    • Natalie Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Natalie Frank 

      2 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Thanks Linda. I'm glad they sound interesting to you. Thanks for stopping by.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This article is a great resource for creative people. The residencies that you've described sound very interesting.

    • Natalie Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Natalie Frank 

      2 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Bill, I think the closest program to you would be the John Day Fossil Beds in New Mexico or the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area in Washington State. I have added a list of programs at the bottom of the article. Thanks for stopping by!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Wonderful idea! I don't know if they have this where we are, near Mt. Rainier Ntl Park, but I would be amazed if they didn't.


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