Artists find inspiration living in Big Cypress

OCHOPEE, Fla. — Ever wonder where some artists find their inspiration for their masterpieces?

Each year, the Big Cypress National Preserve offers artists the chance to come live on the park’s property and find inspiration from the park’s natural beauty. 

Open to aspiring professional writers, composers, and visual and performing artists, the park’s artist-in-residency program allows individuals to apply each year for one of its coveted spots.

Started about seven years ago at Big Cypress, the program allots four spots for potential candidates to come stay through the wet season of April through November.

In order to apply, artists are required to submit a resume, samples of their work and a statement of what they intend to create while staying at Big Cypress. In August a selection committee meets to review applicants.

“The selections committee is made up of a panel of peers who are also artists,” said Christopher Dermon, supervisory park ranger. “Winners are judged based on skill, what they hope to get out of the program and the preservable benefit of the work they intend to create.”

Artists that are chosen for the program, live in dormitory styled living arrangements, each having their own room, and sharing a living room, bathroom and kitchen area with other members of the program.

“The living setup is at a park ranger housing, basically a dormitory house set up that is shared with the rangers,” said Mary Bue, of Duluth, Minn., and a member of the residency program in February 2006. “It offered the bare basics of what you need to live, my room had a bed, dresser, chair, and table, all very simple. I had an amazing view, outside my window there was a Cypress tree giving a jungle-like feeling.”

In exchange for their participation in the program artists are required to donate two pieces of their original work that is depictive of Big Cypress National Preserve and was made during their residence. 

“The Welcome and Visitor Center are where the artist residents’ work is displayed,” said Dermon. “There are water color murals, oil paintings, poetry, all kinds of mediums of art.”

In the hopes of further sharing the park’s scenic and natural beauty with others, artists are also required to give several public presentations of their work. In addition, each selected artist is also requested to give public presentations in their own communities after their residence is complete.

“The park gives artists time after they leave to finish making their creation and send it back so it can be archived,” said Bue. “I wrote a lot of poems during that time, and fiddled but nothing clicked till I came back and wrote “Cypress Tree”

As a musician, Bue used her time in the program to work on her songwriting, finding inspiration in the park’s landscape and its unique wildlife.

“The birds are incredible, the pelicans and the herons they look so prehistoric and huge I was obsessed with them,” said Bue. “As were the alligators, we don’t have alligators in Minnesota where I’m from so I loved being near them.”

The park’s hope is that through bringing talented artists to Big Cypress, the work they create will help inspire and make people more aware of why Big Cypress National Preserve is a unique and beautiful park worth visiting. 

“It all comes back to resources, the beauty of them, the contemplative nature of the park, the wildlife, and the sunsets are phenomenal here,” said Dermon. “The natural resources here are unique not only to the area but to the entire country too.”

What makes the artist-in-residency program at Big Cypress so unique is its ability to offer artists the opportunity to create in a quiet and beautiful environment.

“It’s nice to know that there are places that will take and help artists,” said Bue. “Sometimes its hard to create when your immersed in life and distractions, its great to get away and get that break, but when you do its like a working, creative, vacation.”

If You Go

Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center
Open everyday, but Christmas
9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
33000 Tamiami Trail East
Ochopee, FL 34141

Oasis Visitor Center
Open everyday, but Christmas
9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
52105 Tamiami Trail East
Ochopee, FL 34141

Comments are Closed