I wonder whether art has a higher function than to make me feel, appreciate, and enjoy natural objects for their art value?" - Bernard Berenson
Artists have had a long-standing influence on the formation, expansion and direction of our National Parks. By painting landscapes of the American West, nineteenth century artists publicized many of the natural wonders of a land little known to eastern residents. This body of work helped to stimulate the establishment of many of our National Parks and to foster a continuing appreciation of them.
Today's artists continue to document the resources of the National Park system with contemporary approaches and techniques, drawing upon the scenic, historic, and cultural elements of the parks for inspiration. These artists translate the parks' purpose as places of pleasure and preservation, into images that bring other people new insights, enjoyment and understanding.
No artist residencies in 2021Because of the uncertainty about the upcoming season and our housing constraints, Sleeping Bear Dunes will not be hosting September and October 2021 AIR residencies. We will miss the program again this year but look forward to a restart in 2022. All submissions from 2020 and 2021 will be held for 2022. New submissions are due by April 15, 2022.
Located in the northwest corner of Michigan’s lower peninsula, Sleeping Bear Dunes stretches 35 miles along Lake Michigan’s east coast between the towns of Frankfort and Leland. Traverse City lies 25 miles to the east. North and South Manitou Islands which lie a few miles offshore are included within the Lakeshore’s boundaries.
The picturesque National Lakeshore is ideally suited for an Artist-in-Residence program. It is a hilly region fringed with massive coastal plateaus and sand dunes, and dotted with clear lakes. It is a diverse landscape, with many features derived from the glacial times when vast ice sheets covered the land. It embraces quiet, tree-lined streams, imposing beech-maple forests, and rugged bluffs towering as high as 400 feet above Lake Michigan. The National Lakeshore’s cultural history includes prehistoric use by American Indians, lake steamer fueling stations, logging, farming, commercial fishing, lighthouses, U.S. Life-Saving Stations, and other maritime activities. Because the National Lakeshore offers so many varied cultural and natural resources, it is an ideal location for creative endeavor. The beauty and serenity of the land and water are inspiring.
How the Program Operates
The Artist-In-Residence program is open to professional American writers, composers and visual artists, including photographers, whose work can be influenced and enhanced by this superb Michigan scene. It provides resident artists the opportunity to capture the moods of Sleeping Bear Dunes in their particular medium. The program provides rent-free use of a park house located in the vicinity of the village of Empire (no pets). You may also choose to stay in a campsite in one of the developed mainland campgrounds.
Two 3-week residencies are available during September and October. The artist is asked to donate to the park an original piece of work representative of their medium, produced during the residency, and to contribute to the advancement of the park's mission. This is done by sharing knowledge with the public during the final week of the residency through a workshop, demonstration, reading, slide talk, etc. In addition, the artist must be willing to interact with park visitors when contacts are made in the field while working. Donated works will be displayed in the park or shared with the public through other appropriate means. These works will characterize the Lakeshore for present and future generations.
Offering the public an opportunity to experience our national heritage through the eyes, ears and talents of the contributing artists fulfills one of the program's main purposes. The artist will be enrolled in the Volunteers In Park (VIP) Program of the National Park Service.
A jury of park representatives and local subject matter experts will select from the pool of applicants. Selections will be made solely on the basis of merit and how their work can advance the mission of the National Park Service and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Selections will be made without regard to race, religion, sex, marital status, age or national origin.
How to Apply
Submissions to apply for the program must be postmarked or delivered to the park no later than April 15th (the postmark deadline is April 15 every year). No emailed submissions will be accepted. The selections will be made and all applicants notified by email of the outcome no later than mid June.
A complete submission includes the following items, contained in a single envelope or padded mailer:
1. Your resume of no more than two pages (four copies). Please include an email address.
2. An appropriate sample of your recent work:
3. A statement of what you hope to gain from a residency at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and a description of how you will engage the public through your program and interact with visitors while at work in the field (four copies). Please make sure your name is on your statement.
PLEASE NOTE - We will not be able to review submissions that don't include four copies of all documents.
Please send your submission to
For more information email Susan Sanders:
"The work of art is a part of nature seen through a temperament." - Andre Gide
Last updated: April 15, 2021