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Press Release
Sanford Underground Research Facility Artist in Residence Program announces artist selected for 2021 residency


LEAD, SD— The Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) Artist in Residence (AiR) Program has selected Leekyung Kang, celebrated artist and assistant professor at Idaho State University, as the program’s 2021 artist-in-residence.

“We’re proud to host Professor Leekyung Kang in our second year of the SURF AiR Program,” said Mike Headley, executive director of SURF. “We’re excited to see the works she’ll develop based on inspiration from SURF and our science.”

A mixed media artist working primarily with painting, printmaking and sculpture, Kang’s work has been exhibited in South Korea; Doha, Qatar; and cities throughout the United States. She has participated in several residencies internationally, including the Fountainhead fellowship at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar and the Vermont Studio Center. When Kang saw the SURF AiR call for artists, it seemed like the perfect next step.

“The SURF Artist-in-Residence will allow my practice to grow beyond the fine art practice by collaborating with scientists, an experiential learning experience that I have been dreaming for,” Kang said.


An artist kneels amidst an exhibit in-progress
Leekyung Kang utilizes diverse perspectives within architectural contexts to challenge the audience's perception of space. Here, Kang works on an unfinished exhibit. Photo courtesy Leekyung Kang 


Kang’s artistic practice is inextricably tied to the landscapes around her, landscapes she often describes as stratified with physical, invented and imagined layers. Her portfolio explores spaces including the metropolis of Seoul, South Korea, and the evolving architecture of Providence, Rhode Island. Often, she uses Google Earth and GPS programs to help her visualize and imagine inaccessible spaces.

“I am very looking forward to the tours and site visits of the underground areas and facilities, because having a real underground experience in the unseen will significantly alter the work that I have been doing as virtual navigations in digital space,” Kang said.

“When an artist is influenced by place, like Professor Kang is, the work becomes the direct result of the artist’s experience in that place. And there aren’t many places as unique as Sanford Lab,” said Gina Gibson.

Gibson, who was the first SURF AiR in 2019, returned as the Program Coordinator in 2020. Gibson organized the Program’s selection committee, which includes representatives from SURF and the local arts community. After the committee released this year’s call for artists, the response was overwhelming.

“We received applications from 20 artists from 11 states and several countries,” Gibson said. “These applicants work with painting, sculpture, video, photography, mixed media and performance art—making it a very competitive selection process. As someone who has just gone through the residency process at SURF, I could only imagine the potential of what these artists might create.”

In the summer of 2021, Kang will complete an intensive four-week residency at Sanford Lab, visiting the surface and underground spaces of this unique facility and exploring the scientific concepts being researched. These experiences will inspire a body of work that will culminate in a public exhibition and outreach presentation in the fall of 2021.

From her exhibit, Kang will select one piece to become part of the SURF AiR’s permanent collection, which will grow by one piece with each visiting artist.

“As we move into the second year of the SURF AiR Program, our committee is looking ahead to what the Program could be 10, 20, even 50 years from now,” Gibson said. “This collection will eventually become a legacy that includes a piece from every artist who visited and created at SURF.”

Sanford Lab is operated by the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority (SDSTA) with funding from the Department of Energy. Our mission is to advance world class science and inspire learning across generations. Visit Sanford Lab at

More Information

Constance Walter
Communications Director
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