5 Artist Residency Programs for People Who Love Nature and Science

Creative residencies at a national park or rural area can mean working outdoors — but that's not always the case. . (Photo: Wolf Avni/Shutterstock)

As anyone who has ever done anything creative knows, the single thing that will advance your work most isn't raw talent, the best teachers or the most expensive equipment. It isn't even money (though that can help).

It's time.

That's why artist-in-residence programs exist. They are spaces, sometimes complete with art materials, that give time and space for a creative person to focus on, well, creating. And while Yaddo, Bread Loaf and other famous retreats are well-known even among non-creative types, many more retreats exist. There are even locations for people who love nature and science.

The National Parks Service

A map of the residencies available at national parks in the US.
Residencies at national parks sometimes include interaction with park guests. (Photo: U.S. National Parks Service)

The National Parks Service (NPS) offers a huge number and variety of residencies at U.S. parks — 50 in all in the United States. A quick look at the map above will give you an idea. Most last two to four weeks and are open to creative people of various stripes. What's included and the specifics of each residency vary from park to park, but the NPS website gives a good overview: "Whether staying in a remote wilderness cabin at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska or contemplating history at Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in Iowa or working in a contemporary studio overlooking the stone-lined fields at Weir Farm National Historic Site in Connecticut, these programs provide artists with unique opportunities to create works of art in varied natural and cultural settings."

The Art Farm

The Art Farm provides residencies for all kinds of artists, from writers to woodworkers, sculptors, painters, playwrights and more. (Photo: Courtesy Art Farm)
The Art Farm provides residencies for all kinds of artists, from writers to woodworkers, sculptors, painters, playwrights and more. (Photo: Courtesy Art Farm)

The Art Farm in Nebraska is all about being off-center, playful, and thinking way out-of-the-box. There are two rambling houses and a barn to work from — accommodations are free — and an organic garden. Provided materials range from paper to scrap metal, timber and clay. The mission is as quixotic as the group's rooms and materials: "Art Farm’s mission is to support artistic vision, which may be impractical, obscure, and independent of commercial recognition — where failing is no less welcomed than succeeding. To offer artists, writers, performers, and others: studios, time, and resources for pursuing their range of expression, for experimenting, for developing projects, but most of all, for distilling the promise and potential of their creative enterprise, while working and living in a rural environment."


Dmitry Gelfand and Evelina Domnitch
Dmitry Gelfand from St. Petersburg, Russia, and Evelina Domnitch from Minsk, Belarus, were guest artists at CERN in March 2016. They create sensory immersion environments that merge physics, chemistry and computer science with philosophical practices. (Photo: Courtesy Arts at CERN)

At CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, particle accelerators and other machines are used to answer questions about the fundamental structure of the universe. CERN may be best-known for exploring the Higgs-boson particle and its other work in the Large Hadron Collider, but the organization likes to team up with artists, too, and it does so through two residencies: ACCELERATE and COLLIDE. According to the site, "ACCELERATE is the country-specific, one-month research award for artists who have never spent time in a science laboratory before. It is the sister strand of CERN’s flagship artists residency programme, COLLIDE, and it was launched in 2014."

Caldera Arts Center

The Blue Lake of Sisters, Oregon, upon the shores of which the Caldera Arts Center sits.
The Caldera Arts Center sits on the shores of Blue Lake in Sisters, Oregon. (Photo: Courtesy Caldera Arts Center)

The Caldera Arts Center provides month-long residencies every winter from January to March. The organization also holds art and environmental programs. Caldera defines "creatives" widely: "Because we believe a range of backgrounds enhances the communal experience, residencies are open to national and international artists of any discipline, as well as creative thinkers in engineering, design and the sciences who have emerged and established themselves beyond university training."

Crosshatch Center for Art & Ecology

The interior of the Hill House cabin in Michigan.
The Hill House Artist Residency supports talented artists with a two-, three- or four-week stay in a semi-secluded log cabin near East Jordan, Michigan. (Photo: Courtesy Crosshatch Center for Art & Ecology)

The Crosshatch Center for Art & Ecology's Hill House Artist Residency program gives artists time to create in a semi-secluded log cabin in the woods of Michigan. They accept creatives in four areas: musicians, writers, dancers, actors, visual artists and designers. And there's a nice perk for parents: "The Hill House accepts parent artists! An artist may bring up to three children and/or caregivers while in residence. Further, the Hill House allows artists from different disciplines to be in residence together, if they are collaborating on a project together or if they are in a relationship."

Want more? There's a great list here through the Alliance of Artist Communities.