Serena Supplee poses with one of her paintings. [Courtesy photo]

As part of the Canyonlands National Park 50th-anniversary celebration, the Moab Arts and Recreation Center (MARC) will be hosting a “Canyonlands Artist in the Parks” show with an opening reception on Saturday, July 5 from 7 to 9 p.m.

The show is a collaborative effort between the National Park Service (NPS), and the Friends of Arches and Canyonlands Parks (FACP). The exhibit will showcase works done by local artists who have participated in NPS’s Community Artist in the Parks (CAP) program.

Works from past CAP artists Chad Niehaus, Sarah Hamingson, Logan Hansen, Pete Apicella, Kathy Cooney, and current CAP artist Serena Supplee, will be on display.

“We’re delighted to display artwork that has been inspired by our own backyard,” MARC director Laurie Collins said.

The CAP is a partnership between the NPS, the Canyonlands Natural History Association (CNHA) and a chosen artist. The goal of the program is to partner with local talent to enhance visitor experiences in the parks, program director Sharon Brussell said.

Though similar to other parks’ artist-in-residence programs, the CAP is open only to local artists. One artist is selected each year and he or she makes a commitment to work on-site in Arches and Canyonlands national parks, as well as in Hovenweep and Natural Bridges national monuments. The artists are encouraged to interact with the public and to help them have a more in-depth experience with the landscape.

“It gives people a completely different perspective when they see someone creating in front them,” Brussell said. “It allows them to see the landscape in a completely different way.”

Brussell said the program also provides many challenges for the artists. The requirements stipulate that the artist must commit to making 46 visits to area parks between April and November, and that each visit must be 2-4 hours in length. In addition to juggling their lives to make the commitment, artists work with the challenges of adapting their chosen medium to an outdoor setting.

Local artist Chad Niehaus came up with the concept in 2008 and pitched the idea to the NPS. He became the area’s first CAP artist in 2009.

Niehaus said that his interactions with visitors ranged from no response at all to being surrounded by a bus load of interested visitors, to hours-long talks with people in the back-country.

“I think it offered visitors an opportunity to slow down and experience this amazing place we call home,” he said.

Niehaus also said that the CAP offers a rare opportunity to develop a focused, substantial body of work and that it offers an “intensive experience for the artist to express his or her connection to a particular place on the planet.”

Current CAP artist Serena Supplee, has become one of Moab’s most well known and successful artists since making the leap from full time Cataract Canyon river guide in 1988. Over the past several years however, she has been earning her living mostly by painting the Colorado River and Grand Canyon. She is grateful for the opportunity to re-connect with Canyonlands and the other area parks.

“What I love about Canyonlands is the sense of discovery,” she said. “And through this sense of discovery that I’m having, I’m encouraging visitors to have their own sense of discovery … to connect with their own sense of place.”

At the upcoming show, Supplee said she is looking forward to showing some recently completed paintings from a trip out to the Maze District.

Supplee also said that the program provides an opportunity for an artist to gain exposure and support from the community. Past CAP artist Logan Hansen agreed.

“The CAP program provided a much larger audience for my work than anything I had experienced up until then,” Hansen said. “It also forced me to be much more open with my art, my working process, and as a person communicating with people from wildly different backgrounds.”

Hansen is to date, the only photographer from the program, and he specializes in 360-degree panoramas that he said “help capture and emphasize the dynamism in our landscape.”

“I try to display the full view and experience of being in the Canyonlands region in a different way than traditional landscape photography,” he said.

Joette Langianese, executive director of the FACP, said that showcasing art created in the parks was a perfect way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Canyonlands. Brussell, who is also on the 50th- anniversary event committee, agreed.

“We’re so proud of the program,” she said. “Both for what it has done for the artists and for the visitors.”

The Canyonlands Artist in the Parks show will be on exhibit at the MARC from July 4 through July 31.

What: Canyonlands Artist in the Parks art show

When: Saturday, July 5, 7 to 9 p.m.

Where: Moab Arts and Recreation Center, 111 E. 100 North

Cost: Free

“The CAP program provided a much larger audience for my work than anything I had experienced up until then. It also forced me to be much more open with my art, my working process, and as a person communicating with people from wildly different backgrounds.”

Artist in the Parks exhibit kicks off with opening reception at MARC