Calling All Artists: Want to Live in a National Park for Free This Summer?

Ken Bosma under Creative Commons

Want to create art in the “wonderland of rocks” this summer — for free?

Chiricahua National Monument’s Artist-in-Residence program might be a dream come true. Selected artists get to spend up to a month in the Arizona monument, hiking the 17 miles of trails, exploring the monument’s 11,985 acres, and creating art in inspiring surroundings.

Chiricahua is just one of more than 50 national parks and monuments that embrace artists throughout the year through the National Park Service’s Arts in the Park program. Every year, the program allows artists and writers to apply for an opportunity to live in one of the parks for two to four weeks, honing their crafts with inspiration from natural surroundings.

And the best part? Participation is free in most programs.

Does living for free in a national park sound like a dream job? Apply soon to take advantage of these opportunities.

Chiricahua National Monument: Applications Due March 15

Professional artists, including writers, composers, visual and performing artists, can pursue their art in the midst of inspiring natural and rugged beauty. In 2014, the artists-in-residence were Charles and Micki Dischinger, a husband-and-wife team of photographers.

The program provides two to four weeks of free accommodations in the monument. In return, artists are expected to provide an original piece of art that represents their time in the monument and their experiences there. Artists are also expected to share their work with park visitors through two public presentations of about 45 minutes each during their time in residence. Organizers also request artists give a presentation in their communities once they return home to share the monument and program with even more people.

To apply for the 2015 residency, your application must be postmarked by March 15. Be sure to follow the guidelines and provide the requested materials — nothing more, nothing less — as the instructions note that providing too many (or not enough) materials may mean your application gets rejected. Finalists will be selected by a panel of professional artists and notified by July 1.

Cape Cod National Seashore: Applications Due March 15 & 17

The Peaked Hill Bars Historic District, located on Cape Cod National Seashore in Massachusetts, is a 1,900-acre district on the National Register due to its art and literature history. The National Park Service works with a few nonprofits to offer residency programs for a small fee. Two of these programs are the Outer Cape Artist in Residence Consortium and the Peaked Hill Trust Residency Program (which is also open to naturalists, scientists and healing artists).

Fees start at $175 per week (with a two-week maximum) and accommodations are “shack style,” with no indoor plumbing or running water. However, they do provide outhouses, hotplates, and other amenities, though they do note that there is no insulation to speak of and the water pump might be a distance away.

The accommodations are quite rustic, as Peaked Hill Trust’s announcement notes, “No housekeeping services; Free assortment of mosquitoes, mice, snakes, voles, ticks.” The shacks are also known to be a little bit leaky, and it “rains in on occasion.”

For the hardy and adventurous souls who can’t wait to apply, Outer Cape Artist in Residence Consortium applications are due March 15 and Peaked Hill Trust applications are due March 17.

Sleeping Bear Dunes: Applications Due April 15

Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes is seeking artists who can “capture the moods of Sleeping Bear Dunes in their particular medium.”

This opportunity includes housing in either a house near Empire village or a campsite. The residencies are three weeks long and available during the months of September and October. Artists are requested to contribute an original piece of artwork from their residency to the park. They are also expected to interact with visitors and host a demonstration, reading or slide show.

Artists will be considered volunteers and enrolled in the Volunteers in Park program within the Park Service. Application instructions are available here and are due on April 15.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore: Applications Due April 20

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is in its fifteenth year of letting artists live on the lakeshore while they create. Previous artists-in-residence include painter Douglas David and plein air painter Sherri Thomas among many others.

Artists are expected to donate one piece of art from their residency, which will join the park’s collection at the visitor’s center. They must also agree to two to four hours of “public interaction,” which can include presentations, exhibits, workshops or any other approved activity.

Applications must be postmarked by April 20 and received by April 30 for consideration. Two-week residencies are available in June, July and August and applicants are requested to include their preferred time period.

The park provides housing for participants in a “lightly furnished” house which comes with kitchenware and appliances, housewares, bedroom furniture and lamps. Artists must provide their own bed linens, art supplies and food during their stays.

Future Program Options

If the above programs aren’t quite right, there’s plenty of time to apply for next year’s programs. Acadia National Park’s program starts accepting applications for next year’s program on August 26, 2015.

Artists in Acadia often work with visiting student groups and provide public programs, as well as donate a piece of their work to the Schoodic Institute, which then sells the work to support the program. Selected artists for 2015 include several writers, a plein air painter, a woodcutter, a night-sky photographer, a collage artist and a children’s book artist.

Plan well ahead to apply for residencies in some of the most popular locations, which can be quite competitive. For example, the Grand Canyon residencies are already fully booked through 2017 (applications for the 2018 North Rim residencies will be accepted starting February 1, 2017).

Participating parks are located throughout the National Park system and include Alaska’s Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Joshua Tree National Park in California, Glacier National Park in Montana, and many more. This map provides links to all the park’s artist-in-residence programs. Good luck!

Your Turn: Would you apply to be an artist-in-residence in a national park?

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.