Melanie Parke


I was born in 1966 in Indiana where my mother raises horses and my father researches Abolitionist histories. Growing up in a family that encouraged curiosity, I gravitated toward nature and the arts. After graduating from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, I moved to be near the fond memories of my family cottage in Leland, Michigan. And to paint. There I waited tables and tried to figure out a way to make a life painting. In the early 90’s I proposed 30 artist in residence programs in the National Parks. It was a response to an era of censorship, the tumultuous culture wars and a declining National Endowment for the Arts. And it gave me a terrific opportunity to paint. I initiated 8 programs directly and ignited a host of others that exist today. I'm proud of that because beside my own painting I'm really interested in actively creating spaces where other artists can also thrive.  

I try to spend several weeks at a cottage on Lake Michigan every summer or a long residency close to water. I live in the tiny town of Chief, Michigan, population 13, with my husband, Richard Kooyman, who is also a painter.