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Public outreach

SURF Artist in Residence Program

The Purpose of the SURF AiR program is to invite artists to create work inspired by the Sanford Underground Research Facility.
SURF AiR graphic hero image

The Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) Artist-in-Residence (AiR) program was implemented in 2019 and is a partnership between SURF and Black Hills State University. The program is coordinated by Gina Gibson, BHSU professor of graphic communication and Sanford Lab’s 2019 artist in residence.

Type: Residency and Exhibition Opportunity  
Posted by: Sanford Underground Research Facility, Artist-in-Residence Program
Application Deadline: December 1, 2020

Applicants are invited to apply for the 2021 Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) Artist-in-Residence (AiR) program in Lead, South Dakota.


The Purpose of the SURF AiR program is to invite artists to create work inspired by the Sanford Underground Research Facility set in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota. SURF’s unique location and history make it an ideal place for creative work. SURF is the deepest underground laboratory in the United States, reaching a mile below the surface. It houses experiments in physics, biology, geology and engineering. This site is also the home of the former Homestake Gold Mine. Artist-in-residence programs are used as a tool to create awareness and encourage interdisciplinary work. This residency is modeled after various programs offered by government, science and industry including the National Park Service, Nokia Bell Labs, CERN, and Fermilab.


The SURF AiR includes a four-week on-site visit during the summer of 2021. Timeframe will be determined by each artist’s schedule in coordination with SURF. The SURF AiR Program includes the following for the artist: transportation in the form of airfare, rental car or mileage; housing and a possible studio space during the visit (studio space is dependent on the artist proposal). The program includes tours of above and below ground facilities. SURF will provide a guide for all onsite activities at the lab at all times. The artist will also be given required safety training and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) which will be provided on loan while on site. SURF will provide the artist with a stipend of $5,000 paid in three installments over the course of the residency.

The artist will have an art exhibition and lecture based on the artist’s proposal during fall 2021. Each artist will provide promotional or outreach events within the local community. This may include working with local schools and universities, interviews and/or documentation of the residency. Each artist will donate at least one piece of artwork to the Lab to be included in the SURF permanent art collection.

Working underground requires that the artist is comfortable in dark spaces and follows safety protocol. The artist must also be able to walk on uneven surfaces for at least a mile at a time, for emergency purposes. Travel underground entails taking an elevator ride in the dark as well as negotiating wet conditions and slippery surfaces. A guide will be with the artist at all times while at SURF.

A timeline and expectations will be agreed upon before the residency begins. An MOU will be drafted and signed by the artist and SURF.

Sample Itinerary:

The itinerary will be based on the artist’s interests in SURF as determined by the artist’s application and in coordination with SURF. Most evenings and weekends will be free-time for the artist to explore the area and greater Black Hills as they see fit. Please note the expectation is for a 4-week onsite visit summer 2021 and an art exhibition fall 2021. All arrangements will be made through SURF and agreed upon through an MOU.

  1. Week 1 - Meet with the SURF Lab Director. General safety training, underground visits, tour of Lead and Sanford Homestake Visitors Center.
  2. Week 2 - Underground visits, tour of Black Hills Mining Museum, tour of historic water treatment plant, dinner with scientists.
  3. Week 3 - Underground visits, visit to historic Homestake Opera House.
  4. Week 4 - Underground visits, community outreach event (which may include area K-12 school or university event).

Application Process:

Artists who apply for and are considered for the SURF AiR program should have a strong professional record including major regional, national or international exhibitions, or similarly documented experience.

Artist’s application must include:

  1. Letter of intent and statement explaining the artist’s interest in being an Artist-in-Residence at SURF.
  2. Short CV/Resume (2-5 page maximum).
  3. Reference list with names and contact information for three professional references.
    Please submit these materials as PDF files.
  4. 15-20 examples of artwork (PDF or JPEG) completed in the last five years.

Applications due by December 1, 2020 via the SURF AiR Application Form.


Contact Gina Gibson, SURF AiR Coordinator at