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To Serve and Create

Or, why artist Rebecca Lowry 
sometimes dresses like a park ranger.
Steven Biller

Rebecca Lowry is on hiatus. She has, for at least two years and likely much longer, walked away from her L.A. studio to become an “embedded artist” at Joshua Tree National Park and demonstrate how creative people can solve everyday problems while also capturing the imagination of visitors.

“This is mission-assistive work,” says Lowry, who’s drawing a plan to reconfigure JTNP headquarters to accommodate more staff. “A lot of what I do here is back-of-the-house stuff, creative problem-solving to help the park function better.”

Funded through a National Endowment for the Arts grant and propelled by partnerships with the Joshua Tree National Park and L.A.’s Otis College of Art and Design, where Lowry teaches, she created JT Lab, a model she’s promoting throughout the National Park Service.

The outcomes of her projects benefit the park more than the artist. However, Lowry’s work has yielded at least one small measure of fine art: a series of photographs she made while documenting a preservation project for the park’s Resources Division. While most of the photographs depict stages of the preservation process, some are conceptual.

“One of my goals with JT Lab is to engage with as many divisions in the park as possible: administration, interpretive, maintenance, and resources. That’s the real test of what I’m trying to do.”

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Otis College of Art and Design and Joshua Tree National Park launched the Joshua Tree Art Innovation Laboratory (JT Lab) in 2016 as part of the National Endowment for the Arts "Imagine Your Parks" project. The initiative explores ways that artists can contribute to the National Park Service’s mission and strengthen the role artists play in the National Park Service (NPS). Learn more about JT Lab.

Photo:  Lance Gerber