GSMNP Artist-in-Residence Program deadline nears for 2024 applications; Artists from 2023 share their experiences

February 13, 2024

Mary Roy stitching with embroidery hoop

by Julie Dodd

Artists who would like to participate in a unique creative experience in Great Smoky Mountains National Park can apply to be selected for the Artist-in-Residence Program for 2024.

GSMNP is one of more than 50 NPS sites that offers Artist-in-Residences. The GSMNP Artist-in-Residence (AIR) Program, which is funded by Friends of the Smokies, is open to artists who work in a range of mediums.

The artists stay “in residence” in GSMNP for 4-6 weeks. They explore the park, create art, talk and collaborate with rangers, and share their art in workshops and presentations.

Kimberlee Lisicki Biernacki (on far right) with art students from Fulton High School at Elkmont
Artist-in-Residence Kimberlee Lisicki Biernacki (on far right) joined the art students from Fulton High School for a special plein air painting event at Elkmont, a new addition to Plein Air Smokies. Prior to the event, she taught a crash course for the students on oil painting and plein air painting. NPS photo

Each artist receives free housing in the park and reimbursement of art materials, up to $300. Typically, three to five artists are selected for the program each year.

Ranger Sheridan Roberts, coordinator of the Artist-in-Residence Program, helps each artist create a customized experience in the park.

“Since managing the Artist-In-Residence Program aligns with my work as Parkwide Volunteer Coordinator, I have the privilege of helping select and onboard participants,” Roberts said. “The opportunity to get to know such creative individuals and collaborate with them on public engagement activities is tremendously rewarding.”

The artists are enrolled in the National Park Service Volunteers-in-Parks (VIP) Program and share their art experiences with park visitors or local community members. Artists may lead a workshop, perform, make a presentation, or do a demonstration.

The artists also have the opportunity to collaborate with Arrowmont School of Art and Crafts, a partner of the Artist-in-Residence Program.

“The 2023 artists generously gave their time to lead workshops coordinated with community and park partners, such as Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts and Friends of the Smokies,” Roberts said. “Great Smoky Mountains National Park is forever grateful to ‘Friends’ for helping fund the AIR Program and for helping deepen the reach of this multi-faceted gem of a program, year after year.”

AIR application deadline is March 31, 2024

Following the completion of the residency, the artists have one year to donate a piece of original work that is representative of their stay in the park. Friends of the Smokies may offer the piece to the park’s permanent museum collection or sell it to raise funds to support the Artist-in-Residence Program or other park needs.

The deadline for application submission is March 31, 2024. Typically 60-70 artists apply each year.

Applicants must submit: a résumé and summary of create works, statement of purpose, and samples of their work. More complete information about the Artist-in-Residence Program is available on the GSMNP website.

The experiences of four of last year’s Artists-in-Residence show the diversity of their creative opportunities and outreach to park visitors and beyond.

Mary Roy and her embroidery at Oconaluftee Visitor Center
Mary Roy at Oconaluftee Visitor Center

Mary Roy – hand embroidery artist and fiber artist

Hand embroidery artist and fiber artist Mary Roy captured the big views and small details of the Smokies through her stitches during her residency in July. Her creative process begins by identifying a location or subject and then understanding the subject, which includes on-location study and analyzing reference photographs. She makes a sketch, transfers the sketch to fabric, and then stitches the design. The photo at the top of the blog post is her with her embroidery hoop stand, working near Cataract Falls.

Mary Roy (Bridgeport, West Virginia) wrote: “My artist residency at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park greatly impacted me as an artist and as an individual. I was able to connect deeply with my surroundings which in turn pushed my creative boundaries. I explored the park at my own pace and created unique pieces in tandem. Being within the park every day allowed me to constantly see new objects in nature. Since GSMNP is the most biodiverse national park, this residency is a dream opportunity for nature-loving artists. I highly recommend this opportunity to any artist looking to step outside of their box.”

You can find her work:
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/AppalachianMoonDesigns?mibextid=ZbWKwL
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/marystitches_

Artist in Residence Sharisse Steber at Sugarlands Visitor Center
Sharisse Steber at Sugarlands Visitor Center

Sharisse Steber – illustrator

During her residency, illustrator Sharisse Steber hiked in the park to capture the locations in her sketchbook, using watercolor, gouache, pen and ink, paint pens and collage. Her views included being perched among the rocks at Charlies Bunion and sitting at the base of Ramsey Cascades. Some of those scenes are now included in “T is for Trails: A Hiking Alphabet,” a children’s book that will be published Spring 2024.

Sharisse Steber (Nashville, Tennessee) wrote: “My time in the park was an incredible opportunity to recharge, explore and experiment with new artistic mediums. Having easy access to so many stunning trails and wild spaces was the inspiration I needed to continue my work as a children’s book illustrator and artist. My days were spent hiking to remote places to fill my sketchbook with paintings of sweeping vistas, details of mushrooms, moss, and waterfalls. A personal highlight was the community outreach ‘Park Postcard’ kids craft day at the Sugarlands Visitor Center. It was such a delight helping the children personalize their own collage postcard souvenirs.” 

You can find her work:
Website: www.sharissedesign.com
Instagram: @sharisse_steber_design

Sharisse Steber's illustration in "T is for Trails"
Sharisse Steber is the illustrator for “T is for Trails: A Hiking Alphabet.” Some of the illustrations are GSMNP trails.

Kimberlee Lisicki Biernacki's plein air painting
Kimberlee Lisicki Biernacki painted the Ramsey Prong bridge in plein air.

Kimberlee Lisicki Biernacki – oil painter

Oil painter Kimberlee Lisicki Biernacki used her residency to develop her skills in plein air painting – outdoor painting. She set up her easel and painted alongside the Little Pigeon River and trails she hiked. She painted at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, where she answered visitors’ questions about her work. She provided a “crash course” on oil painting and plein air painting for art students at Fulton High School who participated in a special student painting event at Elkmont as part of Plein Air Smokies.

Kimberlee Lisicki Biernacki (Folly Beach, South Carolina) wrote:“Every year since I was 3 months old, my family and I go to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is my favorite place to be. When I’m not there I miss it terribly and when I am there, it feels like I never left! The opportunity to be the Artist in Residence was a dream come true. I got to live in the park and paint every day! Inspiration was, of course, all around, but my favorite part was that I got out of my comfort zone in the studio and painted more plein air.” 

You can find her work:
Website: https://klisickib.com/
Instagram: @k.lisicki.b_art

Kimberlee Lisicki Biernacki painting in plein air at Oconaluftee Visitor Center
Kimberlee Lisicki Biernacki painting in plein air at Oconaluftee Visitor Center

Carrie Weis
Carrie Weis helped visitors of all ages create nature specimen drawings. NPS photo

Carrie Weis – writer, painter, curator

Carrie Weis is a writer, painter, curator, educator and naturalist. Her paintings are an exploration of nature and are a visual diary of her experiences in wild places. A National Parks residency in Great Smoky Mountains was a long-time personal and professional goal. Carrie was raised and lives in rural Michigan where she works as the Museum & Gallery Director at Ferris State University. 

Carrie Weis (Big Rapids, Michigan) wrote: “Being in the Great Smoky Mountains as an Artist-In-Residence was a fantastic experience.  Staying in the park for 30 days allowed me to really explore the wildlife in the park. I took every advantage of the daily pace of hiking trails, sketching in nature, interacting with guests, and growing my practice. The gift of leaving the regular pace of society behind to meditate on the plants, unique geography, and the many creatures I experienced is something I will forever be grateful for.”

You can find her work:
Website – https://www.weiscreative.org/
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/weiscreative
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/carrie.weis.3

The Artist-in-Residence Program is one of more than 70 programs and projects for Great Smoky Mountains National Park that Friends of the Smokies supports.