Artists at Great Sand Dunes

Paula Jo Miller Abstract Art Workshop Participants pose with Paintings
Paula Jo Miller led an abstract art workshop for 10 participants in October 2018.

NPS/Patrick Myers

Artist Workshops

Artists have long been a vital part of portraying the beauty and uniqueness of our national parks. At Great Sand Dunes, visual artists use both traditional and contemporary techniques to interpret this rugged, diverse landscape. Composers and writers have also been an important part of helping people form intellectual and emotional connections to this national park.

Artist workshops and programs enhance visitor connections to the diverse resources of Great Sand Dunes, bringing multiple perspectives and creative visions to share with visitors from all over the world.

2024 Workshop

Great Sand Dunes is accepting artist proposals to lead a public program or workshop in their chosen medium (painting, photography, sculpture, music, dance, writing, etc.) on Saturday, October 5, 2024. This is an opportunity for an artist to gain exposure for their work, and share their work with participants in a free workshop or program. The selected artist may also be able to exhibit one or two pieces of their work or conduct a performance at the visitor center in a future year.

The artist will be reimbursed for lodging and round-trip mileage. The workshop and information about the artist's work will also be featured in a press release and the park's social media and website.

To apply, write a summary of your proposed workshop or program (one page or less), along with samples of your work in the form of digital images or a website link to e-mail us . Applications must be received by March 31.For more information about artist workshops, contact Patrick Myers at 719-378-6343.

Please note: artist residencies are no longer available.

Paintings on a wall illuminated with track lighting
One section of the Visitor Center Fine Art Exhibit Space


Visitor Center Fine Art Exhibit Space

With a half million park visitors annually, many of whom come to the Visitor Center, exhibiting here provides significant exposure for an artist's work. The National Park Service's goal is to use this space to engage a wide variety of artists in sharing their unique, creative visions of the park and preserve, so that all visitors may be enriched by different creative perspectives on the park and its resources. The Visitor Center exhibit space is primarily devoted to fine art painting, mixed media, and photography specifically related to natural and cultural resources of the park and preserve. Its purpose is to complement the other more literal, science-oriented exhibits with interpretive views of park resources by a variety of people and media. See full description and guidelines for exhibiting your work in the Great Sand Dunes Visitor Center (pdf file).


Artists at Great Sand Dunes

Nancy Arbuthnot leads sketching at the edge of the dunes with golden cottonwood trees in the background
Nancy Arbuthnot (left foreground) leads sketching as part of her 2023 workshop where participants created their own haiku/watercolor books.

NPS/Patrick Myers

Watercolor artist and poet Nancy Arbuthnot led 'Nature Haiku' workshops in October 2023. Participants went on a short hike with brief stops to sketch and jot down observations of different animal and plant species, then created a handmade journal of animal and plant 'portraits' from the sketches and poems from the written observations.

Abstract dune shapes in black and white photography
Taz Tally does both black and white and color photography.

Taz Tally

Photographer Taz Tally led a public photo workshop to learn about smartphone photography techniques in 2022. There were optional sessions on sunrise, sunset, and night photography.

Erica Prather doing a northern leopard frog jump on the dunes, October 2019
Erica Prather doing a northern leopard frog jump on the dunes, October 2019

Kevin Larkin Photo

Erica Prather

In October 2019, dance and music duo Erica Prather and Kevin Larkin engaged visitors by exploring concepts that relate to both forms of artistic expression. Erica led interactive animal movement for all ages on the sand, and later did independent dance moves on the dunes. Erica summed up her time at the park: "I focused my residency on mimicking movement of endemic or endangered species found in Great Sand Dunes National Park. The circus beetle & tiger beetle are only found in the park’s ecosystems, and the red breasted nuthatch and leopard frog are species in decline. I love our national parks because they provide sanctuary and habitat for migratory species as well as resident species. When we pack up our tents and leave, they stay. This is their home. I think about that when I choose to be silent or pick up trash I see - that it is a thriving, beautiful ecosystem. I want to respect that.”

Kevin Larkin playing an original device to make sand music, using funnels and sound equipment
Kevin Larkin plays his original sand music device, October 2019

NPS/Patrick Myers

Kevin Larkin

In October 2019, music and dance duo Kevin Larkin and Erica Prather engaged visitors by exploring concepts that relate to both forms of artistic expression. Kevin created a sand music instrument that actually plays the musical sounds of sand grains falling from two different funnels. Visitors were fascinated as they poured sand in various quantities through the funnels and made additional sounds as they moved the grains across two sound plates. Later on the dunes, he led percussion sounds while his partner Erica Prather (above) guided visitors of all ages in animal movements.

Below is audio of his finished sand music composition, 'Sandbox 1', and video of Kevin playing his sand music instrument at the Great Sand Dunes Visitor Center.

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48 seconds

Kevin Larkin pours dunes sand across acoustic pickups, capturing the ringing chorus of the grains as they slide and tumble, then moves the sand to make additional nuances to the sound.

Abstract painting in turquoise and red colors
'Marble 1' - mixed media on canvas, by Paula Jo Miller

Paula Jo Miller led an abstract art workshop in October 2018. Her diverse work includes creative use of textures, colors, and patterns to allude to a deeper connection with the natural world. Great Sand Dunes, with their sweeping forms and colors, are abstract art in themselves, so an abstract approach is a natural way to capture the subtle colors and shapes of the dunes and their surroundings. Learn more about Paula Jo Miller's work on her website: .

Lynette OKane Dunes Painting
Lynette O'Kane's work incorporates heavily textured surfaces using sand, plaster, and stucco, mixed with delicately painted images of the natural world.
Lynette O'Kane was Artist-in-Residence during the first half of November 2017. Her residency was uniquely tied to the natural hydrology of the dunes and San Luis Valley, and her visceral mixed-media paintings include textural elements of sand, plaster and stucco blended with images of the natural world. She led a mixed-media workshop, tying in dunes geology and hydrology. Learn more about Lynette O'Kane's work at
Marilyn Feather Photo
Stream at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Marilyn Feather

Marilyn Feather led a wilderness photography workshop in September 2017, focusing on the wild, natural character of the park and preserve. The photographer has been an resident artist at a wide variety of national parks and wilderness areas, and her work has been exhibited nationally. View numerous photos on Marilyn Feather's website.
William Probeck
William Probeck takes stunning, high-resolution images with an iPhone. Learn his secrets in his free summer workshop!
William Probeck led a unique iPhone photography workshop in September 2017, specifically focusing on this phone's capabilities to take surprisingly high-quality images. See some of Probeck's Great Sand Dunes photos on his website.
Black and White Photo of David Boye
Composer David Boye
David Boye has been a Composer-in-Residence at numerous national parks, writing and performing nature-inspired acoustic guitar music. He performed a free concert at the Great Sand Dunes Amphitheater in summer 2017. Listen to David Boye's "Waterfalls" on YouTube.
Mark Dawson Workshop
Mark Dawson led very popular historic tintype photography demonstrations and workshop in 2016.

Courtesy Mark Dawson

At Great Sand Dunes, we not only look ahead to cutting-edge art, but also back to historic photographic techniques in use as the first national parks were being established. Tintype photography is a 19th century photographic method that has been rekindled by professional photographer and teacher Mark Dawson. In October 2016, Mark led very popular informal public demonstrations at the Visitor Center of tintype photography and image processing, then on the following day led a free workshop for 7 participants in making their own images. View Mark Dawson's website to learn more about his work.

Koike Workshop
Kiyomichi Koike led a photographic journey into the dunes in summer 2016.

NPS/Patrick Myers

Internationally-known photographer Kiyomichi Koike, who produced the book Whispers from the Sand, led an insightful photographic journey into the dunes during a 2016 workshop. Koike is a master of both color and black and white landscape images. View some of Koike's photography.
Dana Provence Workshop example
Two participants in Dana Provence's environmental art workshop created this large eye from water, sand, and other natural materials.

NPS/Patrick Myers

Professional sculptor Dana Provence, professor at Adams State University in Alamosa, led a thought-provoking environmental art workshop along Medano Creek in summer 2016. Participants created temporary outdoor sculptures by designing and engaging with the natural materials found on the site. Learn more about Dana Provence's work.
Joseph Fellows Creating a 3D Print
Joseph Fellows demonstrates 3D scanning and printing of natural objects at the Visitor Center.

NPS/Patrick Myers

Sculptor Joseph Fellows led 3D scanning and printing demonstrations and a workshop in early 2016. In the workshop, participants scanned natural objects in the park landscape, then created sculptures based on those objects.
Megan Singleton Artwork
Megan Singleton installation "Eight Thousand Daughters"

Megan Singleton

Megan Singleton's residency was in October 2014. She submitted a complex proposal to create original fine art paper using invasive and native plant materials, painted and sculpted with imagery related to the natural hydrological system of the dunes (creeks and wetlands). During her residency she led papermaking and bookbinding workshops using plant materials, highlighting both native species and the problem of invasive species in national parks.

View the press release about Megan's residency and public programs (pdf file).

Singer/Songwriter Mister Zach (Zach Tipton)

Courtesy Zach Tipton

Mister Zach (Zach Tipton) is the first singer songwriter to be selected for an artist residency at Great Sand Dunes. The first song inspired by his experience of his winter 2013 residency is a stark, mournful tune titled "Incomplete Isolation". Watch the song with accompanying video footage on YouTube.

Randy Pijoan Painting
Randy Pijoan's work is diverse. Glimpses of contemporary life, urban nightscapes, landscapes, and rural scenes with symbolic images of abandoned buildings or objects, are captured by this internationally recognized artist.

Randy Pijoan was an artist in residence in May 2013. Randy's theme was "In Life and In Death," capturing cycles in the natural world that mirror aspects of the human experience. The artist created and operates Venturo Open Press, a non-profit facility to encourage disadvantaged youth in creating fine art prints. During his residency, he brought an fine art printing press to the Visitor Center, demonstrating the process of printmaking. He also conducted two painting workshops.

Robert Dash Photo of Dunes and Fog
Robert Dash captured this image of fog lifting off the sand during his 2012 residency.

Robert Dash

Robert Dash was an artist in residence in 2012. He has posted some photos from his residency on his website, .

Robert presented a full moon photography workshop as well as an evening presentation of his work at the park amphitheater.

Turtle and the Buddha, Cast Crystal
Cast crystal vessel by Ranna McNeil

Courtesy Ranna McNeil

Ranna McNeil was an artist in residence in 2012. Her dreamlike abstractions are made with a variety of materials including crystal, glass, and encaustic wax. During her residency she shared her process of creating in glass, crystal, and painting at the Visitor Center. She has created a number of pieces related to the dunes, and is currently working to complete a complex cast crystal sculpture that she carved in wax during her residency.

Joseph Palmerio painting
Joseph Palmerio painting at Great Sand Dunes

NPS/Patrick Myers

Painter Joseph Palmerio was Artist in Residence in September 2011. Palmerio relates: "Although I am a representational painter, I am grabbed initially by a landscape's abstract shapes...this allows for a strong composition on which to present the subtle colors of nature."

During his residency, the artist gave two plein air oil painting demonstrations, as well as a number of informal demonstrations of watercolor painting in the Visitor Center.

Last Light, Dune Grasses by Jim Sidinger
Last Light, Dune Grasses
Jim Sidinger

Photographer Jim Sidinger was an Artist in Residence in fall 2011. Jim's photography is about communication through images which use simple lines and forms in symmetric (occasionally asymmetric) relationships. He feels that the viewer's experiences are improved and intensified when there is a minimal amount of incidental clutter to distract from the essence of what he is trying to communicate.

Jim Sidinger led a photography workshop during his residency.

Jean Sidinger Artwork
Angular Etchings in Autumn
Jean Sidinger

Painter and photographer Jean Sidinger was an Artist in Residence during fall 2011. Jean's work focuses on abstract shapes and patterns found in the natural world. During her residency, she led a free workshop on "The Art of Seeing".

Painting by Sheigla Hartman

Courtesy Sheigla Hartman

Painter Sheigla Hartman was Artist in Residence in April 2011. She is known nationally for her landscape paintings created with sweeping, abstract forms.

Hartman led a sketching workshop during her residency.

Collage by Angela Mestas
This narrative collage showing circus beetles and kangaroo rats was created by Angela Mestas during her residency in 2010.

NPS/Patrick Myers

Angela Mestas was Artist in Residence in October 2010. Mestas combines outdoor leadership experiences in San Luis Valley's national wildlife refuges with an original vision for seeing and representing wildlife in fresh new ways. "I have an incredibly strong relationship with the land here," says Mestas. "That familiarity with color, aridity, and life will help support art that shows the character that defines the dunes. I want to create artwork that is sensitive to the diversity of the ecosystem in hopes of generating an emotional and intellectual effect that stimulates visually...not only asking questions about ecological relationships but defining them." She led a sketching workshop as well as classroom programs in a local school during her residency.

Aspens Photo by Allan McConnell
Aspens, Afternoon
photograph by Allan McConnell

Courtesy Allan McConnell

Allan McConnell and his wife Frances Dodd (below) were artists in residence together April 16-30, 2010. "The responsibility of black and white photographic artist is to present the image in a new and unique manner," says McConnell. "Choosing compositions, amplifying, retarding, enhancing, and abstracting are all part of the photographic art."

McConnell led a photography workshop during his residency.

Lavender Evening by Fran Dodd
Lavender Evening
Frances Dodd

Courtesy Frances Dodd

Painter Frances Dodd was in residence April 2010 along with her husband Allan McConnell (above). Dodd says of her work, "I've learned to be less concerned about the outcome of the painting and now look for the discovery that might take place. I love the process of the painting, the joy of pushing paint or pastel around, developing lush color relationships and dramatic values. What initially attracts me to a subject are its shapes and values. I try to get beyond painting 'things' and concentrate on 'painting the painting'."

During her residency, Dodd led a painting workshop.

Sally Gierke Ceramics
Ceramic pieces by Sally Gierke, inspired by shapes of ripples and dunes.

Potter and Muralist Sally Gierke was Artist in Residence in fall 2009. She led a clay workshop at the park and did programs at a local school.

Medano Creek Painting by Kathy Hodge
Medano Creek, painting by Kathy Hodge, 2009

In September 2009, Kathy Hodge was an Artist in Residence at Great Sand Dunes. She led two sketching workshops during her residency.

Kay Malouff Stained Glass in Visitor Center
Kay Malouff (lower left) spoke at the unveiling of her panoramic stained glass piece in 2009.

Courtesy Kay Malouff

Kay Malouff was a resident artist in 2009, desigining and installing a panoramic stained glass piece showing the dunes, mountains, diverse wildlife, and plants. This stunning work can be viewed in the visitor center lobby.

Last updated: April 3, 2024

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