Becoming an Artist in Residence
Voices of the Wilderness
An Alaskan artist-in-residence program where participants are partnered with a wilderness specialist to join in projects such as research, monitoring and education in a remote wilderness setting. Each opportunity is totally unique, and leaves plenty of time for creating art in the field.
Sponsored by: USDA Forest Service, National Park Service, and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Residencies open to: Art professionals in all media – visual (two and three dimensional: photographers, sculptors, painters, etc.), audio (musicians, singers, composers), film (video/filmmakers), performance artists, and writers (poets, fiction, essays, storytellers). International artists are welcome to apply.
Residency period: Typically June through August; dates & length of residencies vary.
Coordinator contact: Barbara Lydon at email@example.com
The application period for summer 2022 is closed. A list of chosen artists will be available on this website after applications have been reviewed.
Visit our past Artists-in-residence and learn about their methods in communicating the meaning of these lands.
Artists in Public Lands
Artists have long contributed to the preservation and interpretation of our public lands. Early examples include George Catlin, Albert Beirstadt, and Thomas Moran, whose nineteenth-century paintings inspired pride in America’s wild landscapes and influenced designation of our first parks.
In subsequent generations, artists used song, photograph, poetry and other mediums to celebrate America’s public lands. Their work demonstrates that artistic expression plays a vital role in connecting people to the natural world.
Now it’s your turn.
Recognizing that today’s artists continue to link people to the land, the US Forest Service, National Park Service and US Fish & Wildlife Service are sponsoring Voices of the Wilderness, artist-in-residence opportunities hosted in some of Alaska’s wildest and most scenic areas.
Your job? It’s to be inspired. Experience the wilderness and use your creative energy to bring its voice back to the community.
In the summer of 2022, artists will be invited to participate in our residencies, each opportunity completely different. The purpose is to share with the community artwork that conveys the inspirational and other values of wilderness.
Each artist will be provided the same safety training as other volunteers (may include aviation and boat safety, kayak safety, use of radios and satellite phones, review of Job Hazard Analyses, etc.). The hosting federal agency will provide transportation to and from the field, camping and field gear, and in many cases, food as well.
Travel to and from Alaska is the artist’s responsibility. Participants should plan to arrive in Alaska at least one full day prior to a residency to ensure enough time for safety training. Return travel should be planned for a couple days after a residency, as weather sometimes delays the return from the field. Artists are also responsible for their personal gear, including art supplies.
As an artist-in-residence, you will experience the wilderness like few others. Traveling alongside a ranger, you might kayak the calm fiords and camp on glacier-carved shores. There will be plenty of time to sit back in your camp chair and absorb the crackling ice bergs and roaring waterfalls. From the water, you might see a bear foraging among intertidal mussels, or seals hauled-out on the ice. On remote beaches, your steps will mingle with the tracks of wolves, bears, birds, maybe even a mink. The wilderness soundscape will embrace you with the screeches of eagles or the songs of whales. Along the way, you’ll get a peek at what it’s like to care for the land by sharing time with a ranger.
As a volunteer, each artist will assist with some basic ranger duties, which may include boarding a tour boat to provide education, participating in research projects, such as seal counts or climate change studies, walking a beach to remove litter, or other generally light duties. However, an emphasis for the artist will be experiencing the wilderness and exploring how to communicate its inspirational qualities through their artwork.
2022 Participating Wilderness Areas:
Kootznoowoo Wilderness, Tongass National Forest
USDA Forest Service
The Kootznoowoo Wilderness is on Admiralty Island near Juneau, Alaska. The name “Kootznoowoo” comes from the Tlingit people of Southeast Alaska and means “the fortress of the bears”. This wilderness, which makes up almost all of Admiralty National Monument, is the largest remaining intact tract of temperate rainforest in the northern hemisphere. It hosts some of the densest populations of brown bears and nesting bald eagles in the world.
The Kootznoowoo Wilderness has a rich cultural history and is home to the small Alaska Native community of Angoon which still relies on the bounty of the lands and waters for subsistence.
The selected artist will work with rangers administering the Pack Creek brown bear viewing area or working in the Seymour canal area. During the fieldtrip, the artist and rangers may stay in small tents, a rustic wall tent or historic cabins. Prospective artists should be prepared to camp, work and hike in bear country where conditions may be cold, wet, boggy and buggy. Transport to the wilderness will be by floatplane or skiff.
Artists will depart for the field from Juneau.
For further questions about Kootznoowoo on Admiralty Island National Monument, contact Chrissy Post: firstname.lastname@example.org (907) 789-6220 or Sean Rielly email@example.com 907-789-6225
Nellie Juan-College Fiord Wilderness Study Area, Chugach National Forest
USDA Forest Service
In 1980, Congress designated roughly two million acres along western Prince William Sound as the Nellie Juan-College Fiord Wilderness Study Area (WSA). This recognized the area’s exceptional beauty and remoteness and its possible future designation as federal wilderness. Until Congress determines the next step, the Forest Service is committed to preserving the area’s wilderness character to provide the public outstanding opportunities for solitude, primitive recreation, and inspiration in an undeveloped setting.
Located in south central Alaska on the Chugach National Forest, this wild landscape features countless glaciers - the densest concentration of tidewater glaciers in the world, some flowing a dozen miles from ice-capped peaks to terminate in cliffs of ice towering hundreds of feet above the water. The history of glaciation is evident everywhere you look, from newly de-glaciated barren hillsides, to ancient moraines just below the water’s surface.
Traveling by sea kayak in these expansive fiords, you’ll look straight up at peaks rising 2,000-9,000 feet right from the water’s edge. Camping alongside the ocean shores you’ll be able to follow the tracks of an animal, check out glacier ice up close, or take a short hike up to the alpine for an expansive glimpse of the fiords. Diverse wildlife is prevalent in the Sound, including black bears, humpback whales, sea otters, Dall’s porpoises, harbor seals and sea lions.
The residency will occur between June 5-18 (exact dates to be determined). Artists will be partnered with rangers to participate in various wilderness stewardship duties, including accompanying a six-day teacher training course, centered on the cultural and natural history of Prince William Sound. In addition to accompanying the ‘Teacher’s Expedition’, the selected artist may also be involved with invasive weed surveys, visitor contacts, wilderness character monitoring, and rehabilitation projects, and will be kayaking and boating while camping in remote areas of the Sound. During the residency, there will be plenty of time to experience the solitude and wildness of this place. Artist will fly into Anchorage, and depart for the field from the Glacier Ranger District in Girdwood, located approx. 40 miles southeast of Anchorage.
- Learn about Nellie Juan-College Fiord Willderness Study Area (PDF)
- Voices of the Wilderness Nellie Juan-College Fiord WSA Artist Residency on Facebook
- Prince William Sound Stewardship Foundation
Contact Barbara Lydon at the Glacier Ranger District for further questions about Nellie Juan-College Fiord WSA: firstname.lastname@example.org
Russell Fjord Wilderness, Tongass National Forest
USDA Forest Service
Breathtaking scenery. Abundant wildlife. Absolute solitude.
Nestled between the towering Wrangell-St. Elias mountain range and the crashing Pacific Ocean lies the Yakutat Ranger District, the most remote district in the 16.7 million-acre Tongass National Forest. Due to its isolation, Yakutat has remained nearly as wild and pristine as it had been hundreds of years ago. Countless bald eagles soar freely. Wild salmon swim up crystal-clear rivers and streams. Black and Brown bear lumber through untouched, old-growth forest.
The Yakutat Ranger District draws its name from the nearest village, Yakutat, a name derived from Tlingit name, Yaakwdáat: “The Place Where Canoes Rest”. Alaska Native history is rich and incorporated in countless ways about the village but seen best in the bold and colorful artwork which decorates even the outside spaces of Yakutat. The landscape of ocean, mountains, and wildlife has inspired artists for longer than written history remembers.
Yakutat’s industrial history goes back to the late 1700’s, when it harbored a Russian trading fort. It has since seen its share of trapping, mining, and timber sales, as has much of the rest of Southeast Alaska. Today, Yakutat’s economy relies on fish, in both sport and commercial fishing and in the work provided by the fish processing plant at the heart of the village.
The Yakutat Ranger District is looking to bring in an artist for the week of June 19th, 2022. The artist will spend 3 days in the field alongside Forest Service rangers in Russell Fjord Wilderness, exploring Harlequin Lake by kayak and assisting rangers with wilderness duties such as campsite monitoring and collecting area usage data. The artist will then be asked to spend a day holding a children’s art workshop for local summer school attendees. In their downtime, the artist will have the opportunity to explore miles of beaches, forested trails, and the village of Yakutat itself.
The artist will be responsible for their own travel to and from Yakutat and should note that Yakutat is accessible only by plane or ferry (seasonal). Upon arrival, the artist should be prepared for a typical Yakutat climate of cool weather and frequent rain. Yakutat receives on average 155 inches of rain per year, potentially forcing adjustments to the kayaking trip due to weather concerns. The artist should be ready to work in bear country, and be knowledgeable in bear safety, as well as Leave No Trace principles. Knowledge of water safety is a must. The artist should also be prepared to camp in backcountry conditions, although the Yakutat Ranger District will provide all necessary equipment.
Sitka Ranger District Wilderness Areas:
South Baranof or West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness, Tongass National Forest
USDA Forest Service
Alexander Baranof, the first governor of Russian America, built his headquarters in nearby Sitka and left his name on this large island (1,600 square miles) with most of the southern extremity of the island (319,568 acres) designated as the South Baranof Wilderness Area. Bounded on the west by the Gulf of Alaska, the scenery is stunningly picturesque with granite glacier-scored mountains, long saltwater fiords and hanging lake valleys. On the east side of the wilderness by Chatham Strait, the saltwater coastline is not as rugged and there is a higher snow accumulation over the whole area with over 200 inches of precipitation per year. Permanent snowfields and active glaciers blanket the high country above 2,000 feet, giving way to dense undergrowth in a coastal forest of spruce and hemlock. The wildlife that inhabits this area includes brown bears, Sitka black-tail deer, mink, marten and river otters, as wells as eagles and shorebirds. Seals, sea lions, whales, and a large population of sea otters are often seen offshore, and crab, shrimp, herring, salmon and halibut are harvested from the sea.
The West Chichagof–Yakobi Wilderness Area occupies the western portions of Chichagof and Yakobi Islands in the extreme northwest portion of the Alexander Archipelago of Southeast Alaska. The wilderness consists of 265,286 acres of wave-pounded open coastline, remote rivers, forests of old-growth western hemlock and Sitka spruce and uplands of alpine, muskeg, and rare karst cliffs. Sitka black-tailed deer are common here along with brown bears and an abundance of smaller furbearing animals including mink and marten. Migratory waterfowl frequent the more protected bays and inlets in remarkable numbers. Marine mammals include sea otters, Stellar sea lions, and harbor seals.
As an artist-in-residence you will be joining in a unique collaboration between the Sitka Ranger District and the Sitka Conservation Society in monitoring this rarely visited Wilderness Area. Access will be by floatplane or motorboat. Trips will consist of basecamps in remote locations or by roving monitoring from a sea kayak. Artists should be available for at least a two-week period to allow for adequate weather windows given the area’s exposure to the wide-open Pacific Ocean. Artists will depart from Sitka.
Artists will depart from Sitka.
- Learn about South Baranof Wilderness (PDF)
- Learn about West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness (PDF)
- Voices of the Wilderness South Baranof Wilderness Artist Residency on Facebook
- Bones of the Tongass: Kayaking the West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness (Sierra Club website)
Contact Rebecca Peterman at Sitka Ranger District for further questions about the Sitka Ranger District Wilderness area opportunities: (907) 747-4209 or email@example.com
Tebenkof Bay Wilderness, Tongass National Forest
USDA Forest Service
Tebenkof Bay Wilderness, located on Kuiu Island, comprises a complex system of smaller bays, where islands, islets, and coves are the prominent features. The western side is bound by Chatham Strait, a body of water exposed to the open ocean. The waters of the bay are home to sea otters, humpback whales, harbor seals and four types of salmon, while the land is covered by a thick forest of old growth, muskeg and alpine areas. Historically the Kake and Klawock Tlingit utilized Tebenkof Bay. They trapped, hunted, fished, gathered seaweed and gardened throughout the area. The bay was named in 1879 for Captain Tebenkov, governor of the Russian American colonies from 1845-1850. Early into the 20th century, canneries and salteries expanded into the coastal waters of what is now Alaska, and at least one of the industries operated within the bay during those formative years. At about the same time, the commercial raising of fur-bearing blue foxes spread. Almost every island group within Tebenkof Bay sheltered one of these businesses, but most were abandoned in the early 1940's. Commercial fishing continues inside the bay and in the outside waters.
Participating artists will be partnered with a ranger for a five to ten-day trip working on projects such as invasive plant eradication, encounter monitoring, wildlife monitoring and campsite inspections. The crew will live in small tents and travel will be by floatplane and kayak, spending days in what can be a cold and wet environment.
One artist will be selected to participate; the artist will depart for the field from Petersburg.
- Voices of the Wilderness Petersburg RD Wilderness Areas Artist Residency on Facebook
- Learn more about Tebenkof Bay Wilderness (PDF)
Contact Karisa Garner for further questions about this opportunity: (907) 772-5910 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Tracy Arm-Ford’s Terror Wilderness, Tongass National Forest
USDA Forest Service
Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness is located fifty miles south of Juneau. This is a spectacular Wilderness Area cradling two steep-walled fjords that terminate at three of the most southerly tidewater glaciers in the northern hemisphere. Experience the abundance of life in an old-growth temperate rainforest, and then transition to the calving face of a tidewater glacier as it exposes land that hasn’t seen the sky in hundreds of years.
Our stewardship projects here are as various as the characteristics of Wilderness. Artists may assist rangers in monitoring cruise ship emissions, providing shipboard education, treating invasive weeds, recording wildlife, and monitoring solitude and recreation sites.
Each selected artist will accompany a wilderness ranger approximately nine days. Artists will depart for Tracy Arm-Fords Terror from Juneau via floatplane or motorboat. During the fieldtrip the artist will be accompanying a ranger, traveling primarily by sea kayak in the fjords and camping in a two-person tent in what can be a cold and wet environment.
Applicants will participate in kayak training in Juneau before departing for the wilderness, and the district will provide all needed kayak and camping gear. The selected artist-in-residence should have backcountry experience and be physically and mentally prepared for primitive travel and camping.
For further questions about Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness, contact at the Juneau Ranger District: Sean Rielly, email@example.com or (907) 789-6225
Photo by Irene Owsley, 2012 TAFT AIR
Aleutian Islands Wilderness, Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge
US Fish & Wildlife Service
Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge was established to conserve marine mammals, seabirds and other migratory birds, and the marine resources upon which they rely. The Refuge's 3.4 million acres include the spectacular volcanic islands of the Aleutian chain, the rich rainforests of the inside passage, the seabird cliffs of the remote Pribilofs, and icebound lands washed by the Chukchi Sea. This is a refuge of thousands of islands, and millions of birds.
Much of this Refuge of islands and headlands is federally designated wilderness. Swirling clouds of seabirds, rare Asiatic migrant birds, beaches of bellowing sea lions and fur seals, and salmon streams in abundance are a few of the wildlife highlights on the Alaska Maritime Refuge. We access much of this remote refuge via our Research Vessel Tiglax.
We're still developing our 2022 schedule and won't have the final draft until January, but we tentatively plan on having the artist visit remote Islands for 7-20 days.
Artists will be responsible for flying to an Alaska Adak Airport.
- Learn about the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge
- Learn about the Resarch Vessel Tiglax
- Visit the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge on Facebook
For more information about AK Maritime NWR, please contact Marianne_Aplin@fws.gov
Arctic Wilderness, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
US Fish & Wildlife Service
"Here was the living, moving, warm-blooded life of the Arctic...with the wisdom of the ages, moving always, not depleting their food supply, needing all these valleys and mountains in which to live."
-Margaret Murie, Refuge Founder
Arctic National Wildlife Range was established in 1960 to preserve unique wildlife, wilderness and recreational values. In 1980, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) re-designated the Range as part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and provided four purposes that guide management of the entire Refuge: to conserve animals and plants in their natural diversity, ensure a place for hunting and gathering activities, protect water quality and quantity, and fulfill international wildlife treaty obligations.
Arctic Refuge is about 19.3 million acres in size. It’s approximately the size of South Carolina and has no roads, marked trails, or campgrounds. The Refuge includes an array of landscapes and wildlife habitats--from the boreal forest of the Porcupine River uplands . . . to the foothills and slopes of the Brooks Range . . . to the arctic tundra of the coastal plain . . . to the lagoons and barrier islands of the Beaufort Sea coast. Together these areas contain hundreds of species of mosses, grasses, wildflowers, shrubs and other plants. The Refuge contains the greatest wildlife diversity of any protected area in the circumpolar north.
Arctic Refuge contains the largest area of designated Wilderness within the National Wildlife Refuge System, "where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man." [The Wilderness Act, 1964] The Arctic Refuge is recognized as one of the finest examples of wilderness left on the planet. It is among the last to be visited by modern man and among the least affected by his doings. It's a place where the wild has not been taken out of the wilderness.
Untold mountains, diverse wildlife and a wealth of habitats give this unspoiled national treasure first-rate cultural, scenic, scientific and experiential values. Values that are ageless. Values that make the Refuge a national symbol of wilderness. Arctic Refuge is a place that changes those who visit. It's a place whose existence strengthens our awareness of and sense of responsibility for the natural world.
The length of the residency will last from 7-20 days in length. Artists will be responsible for flying to Fairbanks International Airport and air travel to Arctic Refuge will be provided. Possible field opportunities include flying to a remote location with a field biologist and hiking to various locations within the Refuge.
- Learn more about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on their website.
- View the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Facebook page.
Contact Allyssa Morris, Environmental Education Specialist at Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for further questions: (907) 456-0224 or Allyssa_Morris@fws.gov
Selawik Wilderness, Selawik National Wildlife Refuge
US Fish & Wildlife Service
The 2-million acre Selawik National Wildlife Refuge straddles the Arctic Circle in remote northwestern Alaska. This land of vast tundra, complex waterways, and spruce- and birch-covered hillsides exemplifies the interface between the boreal forests of Interior Alaska and the treeless tundra of the Arctic. The largest caribou herd in Alaska migrates seasonally through the refuge, and countless birds, fish, and other wildlife thrive seasonally or year-round in this rich habitat. The refuge is the homeland of the indigenous people of the region, the Iñupiat, who continue to make extensive use of the land for hunting, fishing, and berry picking.
Traveling primarily by motorized river boat, you will accompany refuge staff to explore the Selawik River, and will interact with local residents from Selawik. Ideal applicants should be hardy as well as interested in the connections between wildlife, wild places, and culture.
Artist will be responsible for getting themselves to Kotzebue, located about 500 miles northwest of Anchorage and accessible only by air. Refuge will arrange lodging and transport to and from the field. The residency is expected to last 7-14 days in July or August.
- Learn more about the Selawik National Wildlife Refuge on their website.
- Visit the Selawik National Wildlife Refuge Facebook page.
Contact Brittany Sweeney for further questions about Selawik National Wildlife Refuge: firstname.lastname@example.org or (907) 442-3799
Noatak Wilderness, Western Arctic National Parklands
National Park Service
Western Arctic National Parklands, located in the northwest corner of Alaska, consist of four Park units - Noatak National Preserve, Kobuk Valley National Park, Cape Krusenstern National Monument, and Bering Land Bridge National Preserve.
Noatak National Preserve protects almost the entirety of the largest untouched river basin in America, that of the Noatak River. All the preserve, except for about 700,000 acres around the village of Noatak, has been designated Wilderness. The Noatak River flows westward 425 miles through the heart of the preserve to Kotzebue Sound, carving the scenic Grand Canyon of the Noatak along its course. From its source to its confluence with the Kelly River, 330 miles have been designated Wild and Scenic, making it the longest river in the Wild and Scenic System.
More and more visitors each year come to canoe and kayak on the Noatak, and almost the entire river may be paddled easily. Those who fish catch Arctic char, grayling, whitefish, or salmon. The Western Arctic caribou herd roams, 450,000-plus strong. Backpacking in the foothills, among the bears, wolves, lynx, wolverine, and Dall sheep, has been increasing in popularity, and backcountry travelers must move with care, as this land is fragile. Bird life abounds in the migratory seasons. Camping is unrestricted, but you should avoid the numerous private lands on the lower Noatak River. Campsites are best on river sandbars and high, dry tundra knobs. Motorboats, small airplanes, and snowmobiles are permitted. Hunting and fishing are allowed.
The majority of our backcountry patrols utilize canoes for the Noatak and Kobuk Rivers. The selected artist for this residency will accompany one of our backcountry rangers for an 8-10 day wilderness stewardship project.
Successful applicant will provide their own transportation to Kotzebue. NPS will provide all field gear and food, and all backcountry flights. Outdoor skills resume required in order to receive consideration.
Contact Interpretation and Education Program Manager Tyler Teuscher at Tyler_Teuscher@nps.gov or (907) 442-8321
Wrangell-Saint Elias Wilderness, Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park
National Park Service
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve is a big place. From sea to summit, the park encompasses over 20,500 square miles and rears up nine of the sixteen highest peaks on the continent. Sheer size and scale is what allows for the existence of the wilderness qualities that make Wrangell-St. Elias unique, and it is the primary theme that repeats throughout any description of its wilderness character.
Wrangell-St. Elias wilderness is an “inhabited wilderness” where local communities and traditional human activities remain integrated within the larger landscape. Within the park, continuance of living cultures is ensured by the opportunity for local people to engage in a traditional subsistence way of life.
The wilderness also contains several historic mining areas. These sites and their remains are a testament to the will and determination of people to carve out a living within a truly wild place. The remnants of human endeavor only serve to highlight western man’s transience in this timeless and immense landscape.
The selected artist will spend approximately 5-7 days on a backcountry patrol. They’ll also assist with basic backcountry ranger duties, which may include cleaning up campsites and monitoring visitor use. Artists must have outdoor experience and be physically and mentally prepared for an off-trail travel, adverse weather, and camping.
Artists will depart for the wilderness from McCarthy, Alaska.
Contact Wilderness Coordinator Nyssa Landres at email@example.com or (907) 822-7240
Stories supporting the Voices of the Wilderness artist-in-residence program:
- Becoming an Artist in Residence in Alaska's Voices of the Wilderness Program by Pam Hanneman
- What We Talk about When We Talk about Wilderness by Marybeth Holleman for Center for Humans and Nature
- Bones of the Tongass: Kayaking the West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness by Megan Perra for Sierra Club
- 8 Highly Unusual Writing Residencies by Emily Temple for Literary Hub
- A place for artists on public lands by Tim Lydon for High Country News