Growing up in Monument Valley and Bluff, artist Antonio Savarese developed an early appreciation of the Colorado Plateau’s unique beauty while hiking around Hovenweep and Natural Bridges national monuments. He said he believes a daily dose of southeast Utah scenery is the best medicine anyone can find.
So he jumped on an opportunity to be the 2019 Community Artist in the Parks, a program created in 2009 to highlight the connection between local artists and the landscapes of Hovenweep, Natural Bridges, and Arches and Canyonlands national parks.
From April through October, Savarese spent a minimum of 24 hours per month outside painting and visiting with tourists, primarily at Canyonlands and Arches.
“I thought it would be a good opportunity to immerse myself in the landscape, and it has been,” Savarese said. “It’s benefited me as a person and as an artist. I loved it.”
Savarese said he met and talked with thousands of tourists who would stop to visit and watch him work. He’d set up his easel near trails in the parks and have conversations about the art process. People bought paintings and then sent photographs to Savarese of the pieces hanging in their home. Some tourists invited Savarese to come visit them.
The artist selected for the yearly program must be from Grand or San Juan counties in Utah, or Montezuma County in Colorado, where the Southeast Utah Group parks are located. Savarese was required to visit each park at least once. He’s the 11th community artist since the program was founded.
“Our philosophy is that the artists are out in the park, interacting with visitors,” said Karen Garthwait, Community Artist in the Parks coordinator. “We partner with the Canyonlands Natural History Association on the community artist program. One aspect is that the artist can sell their pieces through the park bookstores. It’s cool to see their works in the bookstore.”
Landscape paintings of these inspiring places make meaningful mementos to bring back home, she said. Savarese works with soft, water-based pastels – pure pigments that he said create vibrant, rich colors.
“We work together and advertise artists’ schedules online so tourists can plan their visits around meeting the artist,” Garthwait said.
You can meet Savarese on Thursday, Nov. 7, at 6 p.m. at the Moab Information Center, on the corner of Main and Center streets. The artist will talk about some of his visitor interactions and show slides of some of the paintings he created in the backcountry.
As a Moab resident, Savarese, 36, seeks to instill passion for the arts in children. He has volunteered for the BEACON Afterschool Program, and for the Moab Arts Festival’s children’s art tent.
“I’m lucky I rediscovered my love of art while still fairly young,” he said. “I’d never done landscapes before I moved back to Moab – you can’t help but be inspired.”
While most of his original works have sold, reproductions are available in prints and greeting cards in Salt Lake City, Monticello, and in Moab at Moab Made, 82 N. Main St., and Back of Beyond Books, 83 N. Main St.
Savarese said he hopes to be a community artist at other national parks.
“I want to capture as much of the Southwest as I can,” he said.
For more information, go to www.nps.gov/arch/getinvolved/2019artist.htm