“Comb Ridge II” is an oil and acrylic painting by artist Anthony Lott, who is serving this year as the National Park Service Southeast Utah Group's Community Artist in the Parks. [Image courtesy of Anthony Lott]

Spring is in the air, and with it comes the buzzing inspiration to get out, take in and create.

The National Park Service’s Community Artist in the Parks program aims to engage the public in this way. The program, which began in 2009, connects local artists with the public and both to the parks.

Whether folks consider themselves an artist or not, everyone gets inspired, according to Arches National Park Supervisory Ranger Karen Garthwait.

“The program is all about helping everyone see these beautiful landscapes through their own lenses,” she said.

Garthwait is the interpretive specialist for the program, and helps select one locally based artist to participate in the program each year. This year, she said she is particularly excited to have Bluff resident Anthony Lott on board.

Lott was born and raised in Utah, and has been exploring different parts of the state throughout his life. His acrylic and oil paintings and landscapes portray the “dance” he observes in the desert.

“When I make paintings in the studio, there are times when I am really active and aggressive and then the second half is very still and methodical … so there are those parallels (with the environment) where things change rapidly and then things move really slow,” Lott said. “I don’t know if people will see that in my work, but I like the idea that there is the opportunity for us to talk about it.”

Lott can be found painting at various locations over two upcoming weekends this month, and park visitors are welcome to join him, or sit back and watch him work.

On Friday, April 14, he will be posted at Canyonlands National Park’s Island in the Sky District from noon to 4:30 p.m. On Saturday, April 15, he will be at the Visitor Center in Arches National Park from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., followed by a stop at the Park Avenue Trail from 1 to 3 p.m., and finally at the La Sal Mountains Viewpoint from 3 to 5 p.m.

“There are times when I will have impromptu workshops set up if people want to come and talk about painting or drawing,” Lott said. “People can bring materials of their own if they want, and the park service has set me up with a simple kit of materials if people would like to stop and work for a few minutes … So there’s nothing formal – people can arrive and see what suits them.”

April 15 coincides with the National Park Service’s fee-free days at the agency’s Southeast Utah Group parks and monuments, including Arches and Canyonlands. The agency waives entrance fees on federal holidays and other days each year in an effort to encourage people to spend time in the national parks. Other fee-free dates on the horizon include Sunday, April 16; Saturday, April 22; and Sunday, April 23.

Later this month, Lott will be painting at Canyonlands National Park’s Needles District from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Friday, April 28, and again on Saturday, April 29, from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

“One of the things I’m really excited about is that he is a fine arts instructor, so he teaches art to non-artists,” Garthwait said. “He has the vocabulary and experience dealing with people who wouldn’t call themselves artists. Since he has done that for years, he is really good at it.”

Lott is the ninth artist to be selected for the Southeast Utah Group’s Community Artist in the Parks program. Garthwait says each artist has brought something different and unique to the program, which is why she is excited to finally reveal a display of work from the artists over the years.

“Each year an artist has contributed a piece of art,” she said. “Just this winter. we finally built a display at the Arches Visitor Center and it has all the pieces from all the artists from the program. Anyone can come anytime and see … the way people interpret these places is so different.”

Community Artist in the Parks comes to Arches, Canyonlands this weekend

“The program is all about helping everyone see these beautiful landscapes through their own lenses.”

When: Times vary; program begins on Friday, April 14, at Canyonlands National Park’s Island in the Sky District

Where: Various locations at Arches and Canyonlands national parks

Cost: Free; park entrance fees apply on Friday, April 14

Information: www.nps.gov/cany/planyourvisit/calendar.htm; www.nps.gov/arch/planyourvisit/calendar.htm

For more information, go to: www.nps.gov/cany/planyourvisit/calendar.htm, or www.nps.gov/arch/planyourvisit/calendar.htm.