Artist in residence program a draw at Acadia National Park

UPDATE 07/07/2022: Deadline for applying for the 2023 Artist-in-Residence program at Acadia National Park is 9/30/2022.

Like generations of painters before him Robert Dorlac found inspiration along the rockbound coast of Maine, when he served as artist in residence at Acadia National Park this summer.

acadia watercolor

The many hues of Acadia’s granite contrast with the blue-green sea in one of Robert Dorlac’s watercolors. (Copyright Robert Dorlac. All rights reserved)

For photographer Jim Nickelson, it was the night sky and shimmering aurora borealis over Acadia.

And for the 16 others accepted this year into the Artist-in-Residence Program at Acadia National Park, the landscape in all its variety sparks the creativity, whether it’s expressed in writing or sculpture, collage or woodcut.

The program, also known as A-I-R, is one of more than 50 such residencies at national park units around the country, from Denali in Alaska to Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in Iowa, the Everglades in Florida to Cape Cod National Seashore in Massachusetts.

Artist in residence

The Northern Lights as seen from Cadillac, looking toward the city lights of Ellsworth, as captured by Jim Nickelson during his residency. (Copyright Jim Nickelson. All rights reserved.)

Every year, from 12 to 20 artists, plus 5 alternates, were selected for a 2- to 4-week residency by the park and its nonprofit partner, the Schoodic Institute. This includes housing for 14 nights provided on the campus of the Schoodic Education and Research Center, in the only section of the park on the mainland.

Those applying can be professional writers, composers, visual or performing artists. They are asked to participate in one public program each week of residency and donate a representative piece of work to be auctioned or sold, with the proceeds supporting the residency program. There is no stipend; the artists are technically considered volunteers.

Artists and America’s national parks have long history

From 19th century Hudson River School painters Thomas Cole and Frederic Church on Mount Desert Island, to writer John Muir and photographer Ansel Adams in the American West, there’s long been a history of artists being moved by America’s beauty, and sharing their passion with the public.

Artist in residence Acadia national park

Stormy seas make for dramatic watercolor, another result of Robert Dorlac’s residency in Acadia. (Copyright Robert Dorlac. All rights reserved.)

The Artist-in-Residence Program in Acadia and around the country continues that tradition, providing artists the time and space – and the scenery – to be inspired, to work and to share.

“Although this was my first visit to Maine I somehow felt a very deep connection to this landscape,” said Dorlac, whom we met by chance on one of Schoodic Peninsula’s hiking trails in July, watercolors-in-progress in hand.

“Perhaps [it’s] because so many of my favorite American artists (the Wyeths, Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, Rockwell Kent, George Bellows, Neil Welliver, Lois Dodd) have worked in this place,” wrote Dorlac, professor of art at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, Minn., in an e-mail. “I hope to return soon to study this landscape further.”

Acadia Artist in residence

Acadia’s granite and sea find artistic form in Robert Dorlac’s watercolors. (Copyright Robert Dorlac. All rights reserved.)

Another reason Acadia’s pink granite and glacially formed features may attract Dorlac: He has a bachelor’s degree in geology.

His lifelong fascination with rocks has led him to also serve as artist in residence at Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona and Isle Royale National Park in Michigan. Before becoming a full-time artist and art professor, he worked as a welder, park ranger and an oilfield geologist.

Dorlac’s watercolors can be seen on his Web site, and at Groveland Gallery in Minneapolis.

Artist in residence starstruck in Acadia

For fine-art photographer Nickelson of Camden, Me., it’s not earthly rock but the heavenly sky of Acadia that beckons.

During his 19-day residency in September, Nickelson captured the aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, for the first time ever, and scenes of the full moon, among other views.

Artist in residence

Clouds seem like islands in the sky with the glow of the aurora borealis, as seen through the lens of Jim Nickelson. (Copyright Jim Nickelson. All rights reserved.)

“I’ve been trying to photograph the aurora for many years and circumstances have always conspired against me,” said Nickelson in an e-mail, when contacted by us to describe his experiences during the residency. “So once I heard that the aurora was a possibility from an aurora alert site, I went to the location that offered me the best chance of success (i.e., the best and highest northern views).”

That meant heading to Cadillac, where he took shimmering views of the aurora, with clouds made to look like islands, and the city lights of Ellsworth in the distance providing scale.

“It was definitely luck in terms of timing. When there is a solar event that can cause the Northern Lights, usually we have about a day’s warning that they are coming, so luck is essential.”

Nickelson’s interest in celestial events predates his current career as fine-art photographer, custom digital printer and workshop teacher.

Previously, he was a NASA engineer.

Full moon Acadia

Full moon over Acadia casts a warm glow over land and sea. Jim Nickelson calls it “Moon of Plenty I.” (Copyright Jim Nickelson. All rights reserved.)

His work can be seen on his Web site, and some of his photographs are included in an exhibition, “Starstruck,” on display until Feb. 8, 2015, at the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pa. There is also an upcoming exhibit, “Under Astral Skies,” including some of his full moon photographs from the residency, at the 555 Gallery in Boston.  That runs from Jan. 1 – Feb. 14, 2015, and kicks off with a special preview party on New Year’s Eve. Nickelson’s full-moon photographs were just highlighted in The New Yorker.

Eight professionals accepted invitations for the 2022 residency program at Acadia, with two fine artists, a standup comic, a food writer, an art therapist, a jazz composer, a multi-disciplinary artist and a poet.

The successful applicants for the 2023 program, the 31st year of the residency, will be notified by December of 2022.

The application must be submitted online by Jan. 16, and requires a $35 or $45 fee (depending on the season of the residency period), copies of your work, a resume, a statement of what you hope to accomplish as artist in residence, description of your public or school presentation, and names and contact information of 2 people who know your work.

It’s an effort worth making for the chance to be inspired by Acadia, as so many artists, past and present, have been.

“Acadia is wonderful in its diversity,” said Nickelson in describing what moves him about the place. “I love the intersection of sea and land, I love the amazing granite and other rocks, and I love the dark skies that facilitate wonderful night views.”

7 thoughts on “Artist in residence program a draw at Acadia National Park

  1. Pingback: Planning a visit to Acadia in August? Ask Acadia on My Mind!

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    1. Acadia on my mind Post author

      Hi Sally, thanks for the question. Haven’t heard any news about that project but something worth checking out. If we find anything out we may blog about it. You can subscribe to the blog to be sure not to miss any update. Thanks!

  3. Pingback: Year in review: Top 10 Acadia National Park stories in 2014

  4. Pingback: Acadia Artist-in-Residence deadline coming up | 56×56

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