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Island Institute Resident Fellows Program

Our Resident Fellows program was initiated in 1989 to encourage the work of both promising and published writers who share the Island Institute’s interest in fostering a language of community and place, and to create a link between the literary arts and the community of Sitka. Since then, the Institute has hosted over sixty-five residents for month-long stays, typically three or four a year. Those who have come—poets, essayists, novelists, short story and screen-writers—reflect the wealth of expression in the literary arts, and a wide range of accomplishment from established authors to gifted aspiring writers. In November 2004 we began a collaboration with the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program that has allowed us to host residents each year from around the world. So far, they have come from Ireland, Slovenia, Denmark, Russia, Australia, South Africa, and Mauritius.

Our Resident Fellows program is structured to allow writers time to pursue their own work while getting to know our unique island community in the forested coastal mountains of Southeast Alaska. Because the Institute’s central interest is the nature of vital communities, we select residents who share that interest and will enjoy engaging with Sitkans during their stay. In return, we believe that the gift of Sitka’s spectacular landscape and the congenial character of the community are likely, in inestimable ways, to inform the residents’ work. Sitkans, in turn, enjoy the opportunities to meet and get acquainted with Institute residents, and have come to anticipate with interest and pleasure the time these people spend in our community—a reciprocal relationship that benefits all involved.


Sitka, Alaska: United States

Located on Baranof Island in Southeast Alaska’s striking coastal mountains and temperate rainforest, Sitka is a community of 8,900 with a rich history. The island is home to the Tlingit, who have lived here continuously for thousands of years and today make up a quarter of Sitka’s population. Sitka’s city boundaries border on the Tongass National Forest, the largest remaining temperate rainforest in the world. Ecotourism and recreation highlight the forest’s complex ecosystems as well as the unparalleled beauty of magnificent stands of trees. Both the Tongass and nearby wilderness areas provide extraordinary outdoor experiences for local and visiting hikers, kayakers, recreational boaters, and campers. The land and water around Sitka provide food—venison, fish, shellfish, berries, beach greens, herbal teas, and more. Subsistence hunting, fishing and gathering have been practiced traditionally by the Tlingit during their long occupation and are practiced by three-quaters of Sitka’s households today. Arts and cultural opportunities abound in Sitka, with two museums and several festivals, and a variety of regular events. A prime community asset is the 20-acre National Historic Landmark campus of the former Sheldon Jackson College that was recently transferred to Alaska Arts Southeast, a local nonprofit recognized nationally for its stellar Fine Arts Camp held each summer. Under its leadership, the campus is being turned into a multidisciplinary center for the arts, humanities, culture and science for visitors and Sitkans alike.


  • Residency Length: 30 days
  • Average number of artists in residence at a time: 1-2
  • Number of artists accepted in most recent year: 7
  • Total applicant pool in most current year: 40


  • Application type: Open application
  • Collaboration: Must apply and be accepted individually
  • Geography: Open to US artists, Open to non-US artists
  • Additional eligibility information: 

    The Island Institute is seeking applications for our upcoming residency opportunities. We are looking for applications from writers who would like to work independently for a month here in Sitka. Residents will be provided accommodations (including kitchen access). A $500 stipend toward food costs is provided for each resident. Island Institute residencies may coincide with those offered by other local organizations for musicians, scientists, performing artists, Native artists, or others. This may provide additional opportunity for creative synergy and collaboration. This year, we’re expanding the focus of the Institute’s programming to include discussions and investigations into climate change. While it is not required, we welcome applications with an interest in creatively delving deeper into this topic.

    For collaborative applications, please submit one application together through our online system at Each applicant should have at least one reference letter.

    In addition to the form, each applicant will need to attach:
    1. A cover letter, along with a CV or resume, including list of published work if applicable.
    2. A work sample: ten pages of poetry or twenty of prose, or other documentation.
    3. A statement of plan and purpose; up to two pages describing how you plan to use the residency. All residents are expected to curate and participate in community activities, in addition to the readings or performances that will bookend your time here. These activities can include: discussions, school visits, workshops, or other activities. Please indicate in your plan what sort of event you would like to do here.
    4. Up to three letters of reference, including phone and email contact information.

  • Application deadline: August 30
  • Application Ongoing: Yes
  • Additional deadline info:
    Applications for the 2016 winter/spring residencies are due August 30, 2016.

Past Residents & Quotes

Past residents:
“A gift of uninterrupted working time is immeasurably valuable to any creative endeavor. There are three ways, however, in which the Island Institute’s gift differs from other residency programs— . . . the astonishing landscape of the southeast Alaska panhandle . . . the community involvement which the Institute fosters . . . the interdisciplinary nature of the residency program.”
— Alison Deming

Facilities & Services

  • Housing: Private housing (individual apartment/cabin/house)
  • Meals: Residents make own meals/groceries provided
    A food stipend is provided
  • Computer/internet access: Wireless Internet
  • Accessibility: housing/grounds/studios are accessible

Residency Fees


Stipends / other support

In addition to lodging, a $500 stipend is provided for food for each resident.

Additional expectations / opportunities

Residents are expected to lead creative writing workshops for adults and youth alike while in Sitka. Residents will also be asked to do a reading, performance, or demonstration of their work. These obligations will be limited to 6 hours per week. Profiles of the residents will be published in the local newspaper and aired on the local radio station. There may be opportunities to visit some of the other rural communities of Southeast Alaska.

Contact Information

P.O Box 2420
Sitka, Alaska 99835
United States