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Artists and Rangers Join Forces for NEA "Imagine Your Parks" Initiative

Joshua Tree Art Innovation Laboratory is Launched

Otis College of Art and Design and Joshua Tree National Park recently launched the Joshua Tree Art Innovation Laboratory (JT Lab), an initiative which will explore ways that artists can contribute to the National Park Service’s mission and strengthen the role artists play in the National Park Service (NPS). Moving beyond artists solely as image makers, the initiative enlists artists as “creative thinkers, problem-solvers, and communicators.”

A National Endowment for the Arts "Imagine Your Parks" project, JT Lab takes NPS’s 2016 Centennial and “Arts Afire” initiative as an opportunity to explore a progressive approach to park management while providing new opportunities for artists. As part of JT Lab, artists and NPS staff will develop innovative programs and projects that contribute to park sites and visitor experiences—both at Joshua Tree National Park and Mojave National Preserve. Additional partners in this initiative include Copper Mountain College, the Mojave Desert Land Trust, and BoxoPROJECTS.

“The JT Lab initiative positions artists and designers as creative partners and problem solvers in service to larger public goals. This expanded role is embedded within the programs of Otis College and we are excited to see this project thrive,” said Bruce W. Ferguson, president of Otis College of Art and Design.

JT Lab is led by Rebecca Lowry, a Los Angeles-based artist and lecturer at Otis College. Lowry, whose conceptually driven work has been seen at Grand Canyon National Park, will work closely with senior park staff as an embedded art professional within Joshua Tree.

"Working with the National Park Service, artists have the potential to spark the imaginations of new and more diverse audiences,” said Lowry. “By making people aware of the importance and relevance of parks and revealing new perspectives, we will contribute directly to the preservation of these special places."    

The project also features a volunteer artist program, led by Joshua Tree-based artist Jenny Kane and an art internship program targeting underserved rural and urban youth, hosted by Copper Mountain College (CMC). The first of several upcoming outreach projects in the park will be “Artists’ Tea”. This program will be offered every Sunday from 9am-11am, November 14-January 21 at Cap Rock and will feature local artists sharing their inspiration and creative thoughts with park visitors. 

For more information on the project and for a listing of its upcoming public events visit

Image: Otis College students participating in Lowry's Creative Action class Park Marks: Addressing Graffiti at Joshua Tree, courtesy of the artist.