As one of the most isolated outdoor recreation areas in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, you’d expect to find more backcountry campers and hikers over, say, an artist seeking inspiration. Yet unique music and art streams from the shores of Isle Royale thanks to the Isle Royale Artist-in-Residence program. The program offers artists a two- to three-week immersive experience in the Isle Royale wilderness. Artists get the chance to explore the national park and use it as inspiration for their work. Artists-in-residence stay in an isolated cabin in Tobin Harbor and are offered the use of a canoe. That’s it, really! It’s then up to the artist to use and explore their surroundings to inspire their work.
One of these artists is Terri Bocklund, a composer, guitarist, and singer-songwriter based in Maryland. In July 2013, Terri spent a few weeks on the island after a park ranger told her about the artist-in-residence program during her last visit.
“For me, this was a dream come true. My family roots are in the Upper Peninsula. It’s a special place, and it’s where I feel most at home in the universe. So, wanting to return came pretty naturally. When we went in 2011, we camped and schlepped 40-pound-packs. We had an amazing experience and fell in love with the place,” says Terri.
When Terri arrived at Isle Royale, one of her first experiences was seeing a moose swim for more than 30 minutes.
“I was standing at Lookout Louise, and I saw a moose swimming for a great distance. I thought: What would it be like to see a moose swim above you? The music was just there. It just started pouring out. I’ve never had a creative experience like this one,” says Terri.
This moment was the inspiration for her song “Bigozo,” which is Ojibwe for “go swimming.” There are many moments in Bocklund’s CD, Of Lake and Isle, where you can clearly imagine, and feel, the oneness she felt with the untouched nature of Isle Royale.
Another song on her album, “Aurora”, is inspired by a night on Tooker’s Island after seeing the Northern Lights—or aurora borealis—towards dawn.
“Isle Royale is one of the few wild places left. It was such a priviledge to be a part of something so pristine and untouched. [My husband and I] were without phone, internet, or indoor plumbing. This really realigns your experience,” she says.
Artists like Bocklund get their inspiration from the emotions they experience and the beauty with which they surround themselves. Not many songs delve into the future of Isle Royale’s teetering wolf population or the experience of watching a loon dive in and out of the water, but Bocklund’s do—with humor and with passion.