VOICES OF THE WILDERNESS
The Voices of the Wilderness artist residency, a partnership between the US Forest Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service, is a unique opportunity. It is modeled after traditional artist residencies in the national parks…but with a twist. Instead of merely staying in a remote cabin, artists are paired with agency specialists and actively engaged in stewardship projects such as research, monitoring, and education. The idea is to give artists a sense of the stewardship behind America’s public lands, fostering an artistic exploration of these natural and cultural treasures. The hoped-for result is artwork that communicates a deep appreciation of these lands.
Check out Voices of the Wilderness for details
on past residencies and how to apply for this summer's opportunities.
Applications for 2023 close at 11:59 PM Alaska time on March 1st.
Scroll down to view or purchase the work of artists selected as residents in the Wilderness Study Area of western Prince William Sound in recent years.
The PWS Stewardship Foundation plays an active role in supporting the residency.
"In June of 2013, I had the incredible fortune to accompany ten Alaskan teachers and the inspiring rangers that serve the area into beautiful Prince William Sound. History lingers heavy here in the earthquake trees that line the shore and in the haunting memories of the Valdez oil spill. The area is a natural memorial of how quickly and easily we could lose national treasures to disaster. I spent hours crouched in the tide pools staring into the microcosm reflecting on this, amazed at how resilient yet fragile life really is. It has given me a new sense of responsibility in using my skills as a graphic designer and illustrator to help share these public lands with others."
Eagle River, AK
“The Chugach National Forest is my beloved backyard yet I did not get to fully experience its vastness and wide range of extremes until my Wilderness Residence with the VOTW program in June 2012. Through my observation and delighted participation with the rangers I learned how vital their role is in protecting this treasure. My painting "Quiet Sound" was begun on location at View Beach, looking down Harriman Fiord. I paint outdoors to capture vivid color, light, and mood. The cove is a gem nestled in stillness with gold hues of the moss contrasted against the turquoise sea as the snow receded.”
Providence, Rhode Island
“Even more than painting Alaska, I yearned to explore its vast spaces, from a sleek yellow kayak skimming the surface of the fiords, slicing through shimmering reflections of mountains whose summits emerged from clouds at impossible heights, sleeping on the narrow gravel beaches at their feet, and climbing up through the moss draped trees for short excursions into the mysterious forests. Now back in crowded Rhode Island I am still processing my impressions in oil paint, adding new colors of cobalt teal and turquoise to my palette. My work feels brighter and more open, though still inadequate to depict Alaska’s immense beauty, I will have to return.”
Santa Fe, NM
“Deep in Harriman Fiord, I felt as close to earth’s natural rhythms as ever, stirred by the power of living things and earth forms. In my collaboration with writer Nancy Lord, I experienced the landscape through yet another filter as Nancy read aloud over our evening stew pot from the journal entries of John Muir, penned when he visited these very locations in 1899. Our focus became the “then and now” as we paddled the fiord following the route of this 19th century writer, naturalist and conservationist.
The opportunity to travel with and learn from the rangers, plus the magic and mystery of the mist-draped fiords themselves, made for a rich, enlightening experience."
“As a writer, I’ve been heavily influenced by Alaska’s natural environment and the people—indigenous and otherwise—who’ve preceded me in valuing it. In the collaborative residency photographer Irene Owsley and I undertook in Prince William Sound’s Nellie Juan – College Fiord Wilderness Study Area, we had the opportunity to spend a week kayaking in the stunning glacier-rich Harriman Fiord a hundred and fourteen years after naturalist John Muir explored the same area. This was both a remarkable wilderness experience and an opportunity to track a century of change in images and words."
North Bend, WA
“To live is to pay attention. My artist residency in Nellie Juan -College Fiord Wilderness Study Area allowed me to focus my mind, live in the present, and feel alive. Whether I'm photographing a bear fishing for salmon, a breaching whale, or a magnificent landscape, I know that I am seeing incredible and yet perfectly natural moments that occur every day, but that most people don't experience. I feel a sense of both awe and responsibility to help others see these wondrous lands entrusted to all Americans. Wilderness teaches us what it means to be human. What it means to be a part of our home we call Earth. What it means to be.”
The thing that struck me the most about the Chugach region is the way the landscape expresses time. There's this incredible sense in it of time being compressed; a feeling of geological and ecological recency. You can read the land and see it's life story: a glacier carved that valley, a recent avalanche flattened that forest, an earthquake raised that shore line, the rising sea poisoned those trees, those bushes are the first to grow there in over a million years. It all seems like it happened just a few days ago and in the grand scheme of things it really did. You are only a visitor who has just arrived on this land, your host."
"We traveled by boat through breathtaking fjords that beckoned us to camp in the quiet shelter of the rainforest. In just a few steps from the tent, the spectacular Chugach Mountains rose above us, glaciers tumbling into the sea, the sounds of rushing streams and waterfalls, or the distant blow of a humpback whale. It was an inspiration to live in this this dynamic wilderness, to witness the creation of new landscapes, and to see the wildlife that flourishes in a place where mountains, forest, glaciers and sea are woven together —— a dramatic, living mosaic.
“I was able to get a very good picture of the Nellie Juan College Fiord Wilderness Study area during my time there as a volunteer filmmaker. From public boat tours of distant fjords, to camping on beautiful beaches with Wilderness rangers, I was able to aim my lenses at some incredible scenery.
The opportunity to travel with and learn from the rangers, plus the magic and mystery of the mist-draped fiords themselves, made for a rich, enlightening experience.
“As an artist who lives on a river that flows into Prince William Sound I’ve always been fascinated by the lush coastal landscape a hundred miles away. I got a good overview of the Nellie-Juan College Fiord Wilderness Study Area as I travelled by glacier cruise boats, kayak, and foot as artist in residence. I was able to document my experiences hiking through the forest to hidden lakes, kayaking past icebergs, and walking by bogs and quiet beaches with my camera and sketchbook."
“For 16 days in June, I spent time in the Chugach National Forest and Nellie-Juan College Fiord Wilderness Study Area. The experience was a photographer’s dream! Camping near a glacier, kayaking by icebergs, hiking to remote sections of Prince William Sound and seeing wildlife in their natural habitat was priceless. I also learned so much about the fragile ecosystem of PWS when I sat in on sessions during the week-long teacher training workshop at Derickson Spit."
“The opportunity to visit Prince William Sound, to see its tidewater glaciers and seals on icebergs felt like one of those ‘catch it before its gone’ moments. I wanted to burn the image into my mind, of calving glaciers making salt water wakes; the exact shades of blue of the ancient ice; the sculptural shapes of icebergs melting as they drifted away on the tide. The icy landscape has somehow existed past the ice age into our lifetimes, a holdout against the march of time. "
Cut Paper Collage Artist
“Alaska is unlike anything I have ever experienced. It was so inspiring to get to paint and explore this vast untouched area of wilderness. It totally sparked and inspired my creativity after so much time at home after living through 2020. I found it really empowering to spend so much time adventuring and camping in the remote wilderness. This was so different from traditional park residencies and I loved the experience of spending so long in a wilderness area."
“I was mesmerized by the mating habits of Black Oystercatchers, glimpses of Rufus Hummingbirds, and the melancholy song of Hermit Thrushes. I painted tidewater glaciers, leaped for joy across granite outcrops, and traced the shapes of wind-sculpted Western Hemlocks. The story of this place is complex, forever changed by colonization, resource extraction, and the ongoing effects of climate change. But as I learned on this trip, there is also resilience, reconciliation, and creative adaptation at work in this place. Visiting Nellie Juan-College Fiord deepened my understanding of the history and processes shaping this incredible landscape."