The Road to Becoming an Artist in Residence
January 12, 2018
The Adventure Begins in Crater Lake
What an understatement! The actual path to experiencing our Parks as an Artist in Residence began long ago. As I retired from teaching, moved to Durango and built up my Chase the Light Photography Adventures, I planned and envisioned a life of travel, art, photography, and exploration. One of the dreams I’m pursuing is to spend serious time in our National Parks, as a Resident Artist. Many of our National Parks have an application process available to established and emerging artists. The program offers time and accommodations in the most beautiful places. These are not paid gigs in the formal sense, but a real opportunity to spend quality time and follow my bliss. I often drag my trailer to the location, and at other times, the park supplies housing. My travel trailer serves as my mobile art studio and home.
In 2013, I began the process of research and writing necessary to apply. The first priority: establish a timeline for applications, organize site specific portfolios, write essays and gather letters of recommendation. Here's an online site listing all the National Parks offering art residencies. After review of each Park’s program and taking a look at my motivations to be at a specific park, I set deadlines and began writing proposals. Each application is a challenge to write, demanding of time and is a huge commitment, requiring a thorough examination of my portfolio for the “right” kind of images to send.
Most of the applications require a 1-2 page statement of intent, a small sampling of 4-8 images, letters of recommendations, and curriculum vitae. And all applications include a proposal for the project to be completed during the residency. The residencies provide an opportunity to devote 2-4 weeks’ time in a cabin or other rustic accommodations, time devoted to making art, and sharing that process with visitors. One of the most challenging steps is choosing the right images to submit.
Artists chosen for this prestigious and competitive award are also required to make a public presentation while at the park, and to donate one piece of art within a year of their residency. I organized a class to teach visitors to improve their smart phone image, video, time lapse, making. And I also created a presentation entitled "Artists in Our National Parks", a story of the history of Art, as well as contemporary art in our Parks.
Sulphur Creek Reflection, Capitol Reef National ParkChosen as Capitol Reef's first Artist in Residence, I spent the month of August, 2017 in the Park. I returned in the fall for some Autumn light and color.
A list of current and past applications
It helps to be “thick skinned” and not take the application process personally. Just as with juried exhibitions, there is a standard of excellence in the level of artists applying, and the “right” person for each residency, the right image to fit an exhibition theme. Some review committees will provide comments, while others just don’t have the time to respond to the more than 250 artists competing for a few residencies a year. This process is highly competitive and responding to deadlines and following the procedures is imperative.
A friend of mine is a writer and after I write a rough draft, she puts her "polish pro" on it. My best advise is to be thorough, follow directions, be clear about what you plan to achieve while in the park, and specific about the "give back time". One reviewer told me that the additional letters of recommendation I submitted were cumbersome and too much for the committee to read. Other park’s do not respond other than a letter of thanks (no, I’m not calling it a letter of rejection) I’ve applied to all the following and the links will show you some imagery I created while in residence.
And in 2015 I was offered residencies at Crater Lake and Acadia. I gladly accepted. 2016 applications included Joshua Tree, Mesa Verde, the Bighorn, Durango Arts.org, Glacier National Park and Zion. In 2016 I was the AIR at Bighorn Canyon in Wyoming, Glacier National Park, in Montana and Mesa Verde in Colorado. I've posted some images and blogged about my experiences and inspirations while a visiting artist. Join me on this wonderful, creative, journey.
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