Art in Our National Parks
 width=Artist in Residence programs in the United States have been around since the turn of the century. One of the first known programs called Yaddo, was started in 1900 by a group art patrons and supports. By pooling resources they offered studio and living space, for a specific period of time, to artists where they could live and create art in a protected and supportive environment, free of day to day responsibilities. Several years later, a group of artists established the Woodstock Guild, where they could design facilities and residencies even better suited to an artists needs.

 Beginning in 1984, the National Park Service established an Artist in Residence program within in selected parks across the country. The intent was to provide a supportive environment in which artist could live, work and create art which reflected the beauty of the land for others to experience. Today this program is available in nearly 20 of the National parks. In most cases, no stipend nor expense reimbursement is provided.

 The length of these residencies vary by by park–usually requiring a 2- to 4-week commitment. In return, the Park Service normally provides housing for the artist, depending upon the park that housing may or may not include electrical or running water. Denali National Park in Alaska, for example, provides artists a rustic 14′ x 16′ cabin located 40 miles inside the park. Although it has no running water or electricity it is ideal for an artist comfortable in a wilderness setting and wishing absoute quiet and isolation in which to create. Some other parks such as Badlands National Park provide a furnished apartment or efficiency with modern utilities.

Artists Importance to our National Park System


Thomas Moran

Since its development, artists have had a significant impact on the creation of America’s national parks. Impressive 19th and early 20th century paintings and drawings of landscapes in the Western U.S. brought about an awareness in the natural beauty of the West, an explosive growth in travel to the area, and heightened interest in preserving the natural beauty of the area. The most noted of these early artists was Thomas Moran (see image below) whose highly publicized landscape paintings of the 1870’s in the area know known as Yellowstone helped foster the creation of nations first National Park. Later, the writings of John Muir (see photo below), considered by some to be the Father of the National Park Service, and photographs of Ansel Adams in Yosemite brought even greater awareness of the beauty of these lands and the need to preserve them.

  1. Suzanne Coste
    at | #1

    You should get yourself to the Adirondack Park, would love to see your work there! My family has had a small camp on Silver Lake near Ausable Forks, NY since 1926. Love your blog. The pictures are amazing. Have a great month in Maine!!!

  2. at | #2

    Thank you for sharing your remarkable talent…These are some of the most beautiful photographs, they are all just STUNNING!

  3. at | #3

    What a wonderful program!

    • at | #4

      Yes you’re quite right Melissa–they are both personally and professionally rewarding and enriching. They also, however, require a large commitment of financial resources and time away from family and work. When I look at all those beautiful images of yours from up there in Michigan it seems like you’ve found a lovely way to do your own artist-in-residence program right around your home base. My best wishes to you for a very happy holiday season.

  4. at | #5

    I didn’t realize the contributions to the development of our national parks by the artists who brought the images to the public. You are continuing in that tradition. Important work, Rick. Thank you.

    • at | #6

      Hi George. I suspect if we looked closely enough we’d find one or more artists (painters, writers, photographers, etc.), naturalists or preservationists had a major role to play in the establishment of most national parks. People like John Muir for example, is one most people are aware of. Another important person that few are aware of was George (yes, another George but of a a different sex!) Caitlin who painted the landscape and American Indians as he traveled across the American West. In the mid-1800’s we journaled about his experience and proposed the idea of setting aside large sections of land as “National Parks” to preserve it. A person years ahead of his time. Thanks for this lovely comment.

  5. at | #7

    As an aside to your post, park lodges like Timberline Lodge at Mount Hood, Oregon were built by local artisans and master craftsmen and women, often paid for by the WPA. These are now protected sites, rightfully so!

Comments are closed.