Isle Royale National Park Residency
I was the selected Artist-in-Residence at Isle Royale National Park in June 2017. Accessible only by boat or sea plane, Isle Royale is an island wilderness in Lake Superior. It is home to the noted long-term moose/wolf study program.
Isle Royale is surrounded by the vastness of Lake Superior; from Dassler Cabin I could observe the changing moods of the water and marvel at the changing light. During my time on Isle Royale, I was interested in learning how the climate and isolation of this northern wilderness affected its ecosystem. I visited the headquarters of the famous wolf/moose long term study on several occasions to sketch, photograph, and learn from Rolf and Candy Peterson. An impressive collection of moose skulls on the property is evidence of their years of research on the island. Surrounded by hundreds of these skulls, and observing the native plant life growing among their rows, the inspiration for Garden and Grave was born. In addition to the plant life characteristic of a boreal forest, Isle Royale is home to a number of arctic and western disjunct species: these plants are far out of their typical range, but thrive in this cool island climate. Locating and identifying disjunct species such as the thorny Devil’s Club was an unexpected highlight of my time on the Island.
Transportation on the Ranger III passenger ferry takes approximately 6 hours from Houghton, Michigan to Rock Harbor on Isle Royale. The ferry has a snack bar and staff who lead interpretive programs to help pass the time.
The Artist-in-Residence Experience
During my 3 weeks on Isle Royale, I got out and saw as much of the Island as I could. I packed my tiniest field sketching kit and went backpacking for eight days, gathering reference material and making sketches.
Dassler Cabin is home to selected artists for the residency program. Built by the Dassler family in the early 20th Century before Isle Royale became a National Park, it has no running water or electricity. Cabin life was a wonderful experience in itself and a welcome retreat from the modern world. Many days included hauling water from Lake Superior, collecting driftwood to restock the woodpile, and hiking two miles to get to Rock Harbor and Park facilities.
The predator/prey study on Isle Royale is ongoing since 1958. At study headquarters, visitors can learn about the factors impacting moose and wolf populations on the Island.