Grand Canyon Rethinking South Rim Artist in Residency Program

The area surrounding the Grand Canyon is home to as many wonders as the canyon itself, thanks in no small part to the various park-driven programs, tours, and events. One such program, the South Rim’s Artist in Residence program has seen a wide assortment of different artists, each presenting new ideas and expressing those ideas in different mediums. The South Rim’s program alone has seen musicians, jewelers, photographers, writers, sculptors, and traditional artists alike, and the program prides itself on being ambitious and allowing artists to take advantage of full creative freedom. In order to further strengthen this program, however, the South Rim’s program will be temporarily put on hold at the end of the current artist’s residency.

Past Grand Canyon South Rim Artists in Residency include…

  • Los Angeles painter Tay Lee
  • Folk duo Mare Wakefield
  • Writer and architect Edward Ford
  • New Orleans mixed-media artists Loren Schwerd
  • Writer Naseem Rakha
  • Poet and essayist Rick Kempa

Artists already scheduled for a 2015 residency on the South Rim have been offered the opportunity to complete their residencies on the North Rim, albeit over the course of 2016 and 2017. Since the North Rim Artist in Residency program is only seasonal, as opposed to the South Rim’s yearlong residencies, artists must stagger their stays.

Many have wondered why the park would restructure such a beloved and important program, but the program is simply being put on hold to address issues of budget, coordination, and leadership. Last fall, Rene Westbrook, the former program coordinator for the South Rim Artist in Residency program, moved away to join her husband, leaving her part-time position as program coordinator. With the position vacant, park officials have decided that the position doesn’t necessarily need to be filled once the program resumes.

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This lapse in activity and concrete coordination will afford park officials the appropriate time to carefully consider the necessary staffing, budget, and vision for the future of the South Rim Artist in Residency program. Park officials want to make it very clear the the program has not been cancelled and that it is fully anticipated that the program will return. Some officials have mentioned an optimistic timeframe of 2018-2019 for the program to again offer unique artistic opportunities to visitors and artists alike.

The Artist in Residency program is one of the most expressive and promising Grand Canyon tourist attractions on offer, so if you’re planning a trip to the Grand Canyon in 2015, give the North and South Rim a call and see which artists will be presenting their work at each destination throughout the year. The current South Rim’s artist, a photographer from New Mexico, will continue his residency until later in February.

How do you think the Artist in Residency program could change to better accommodate the artists’ and park’s needs? Which artists would you like to see visit the North or South Rim? Do you have a favorite artist from the program that you’d like to see return? Let us know in the comments section below!