(Grand Canyon Scene at Eastern End of Canyon) by Thomas Moran. 1920.

By Lindsay McDuffie

How do you, as an artist, interpret nature? How can you translate that to the public? This process is what an Artist-In-Residence program hopes to nurture. With this position, artists stay at the park for 1-4 weeks for free, sometimes with a stipend for art supplies. They then use their skills to build a body of work that “brings enjoyment and a deeper understanding of these parks to people who may never get to see them” (www.nps.gov).

There are a select number of national parks that participate in this program. Each one has different criteria they use to choose applicants. Usually, selection is based on artistic merit and the relevancy of the artist’s proposed project to the park. (Yes, you will have to come up with a specific project you want to complete.) Each year, separate parks may choose a different theme they want the artists to build upon.   

Some parks, like Rocky Mountain National Park, will want to share copyrights to the work completed during your stay. Many require you to hold public programs during your stay as well, like lectures or workshops, to further expose your work and the message of conservation. Other legalities exist, so be sure to carefully read requirements before applying.

While many of these programs are designed to appeal to artists at any stage, some especially encourage college students. Check with your school to see if they award college credit to an artist-in-residence program.

The "Toklat Wolf" is ready to travel to Denali.


If you’re a writer, musician, craftsman, composer, painter, sculptor, photographer, storyteller, performance artist, or videographer—US state parks are looking for talented individuals to pass on their beloved park’s beauty and tradition—its soul—to future generations, so they may be protected and preserved.

Please click the link below for an interactive map of participating state parks: