When Talent artist Paula Fong took up residency at Crater Lake last summer, she vowed to steer clear of the national park's main attraction.

When Talent artist Paula Fong took up residency at Crater Lake last summer, she vowed to steer clear of the national park's main attraction.

"The park goes way beyond the periphery of the lake," she says. "But in the end, I couldn't stay away."

Crater Lake appears in many of the 10 landscape paintings and plant studies Fong, 54, produced as one of the national park's first artists-in-residence. Fong's work returns to the park for an exhibit July 10 and 11 that also will host three other participants of the new program, coordinated by the park's Science and Learning Center and funded by Friends of Crater Lake.

"We're trying to celebrate all the arts: music, dance, drama," says Linda Hilligoss, education coordinator for the Science and Learning Center.

A Virginia audio artist begins his residency today with plans to document the park's soundscape and work with students of Chiloquin's Sage Community School. Erik DeLuca will record students' poetry and prose compositions based on the park's environment and juxtapose their voices against the park's soundscape. The 24-year-old doctoral student at University of Virginia also will contribute to a larger sound profile of the park.

"They recognize soundscapes as part of the natural resources," Hilligoss says.

Emerging California artist Felicia McFall will interpret the park through traditional tribal lore. A tale of coyote falling from the stars to Earth and creating Crater Lake inspired the 47-year-old Santa Rosa resident to construct a pop-up book illustrating the Klamath Tribes' myth of Crater Lake's beginnings. While working on the book, she heard of the park's residency and applied. Her stint is March 13-27.

"I feel like this whole experience is going to change me as an artist," McFall says.

Because the park remains buried in snow, artists' opportunities to work from nature and interact with visitors may be sporadic, Hilligoss says. The program's fall residency provides more access to the lake itself, as well as contact with the public, she says. The deadline to apply is July 15. There is no stipend.

"It was very independent," Fong says of the program, adding that she was "kind of set loose.

"It's the rare ... opportunity to really go somewhere and concentrate on doing art."

Fong concentrated on the texture of rock formations, known as pumice chimneys, and struggled with how to depict the 2-inch-tall pumice grape fern, an unusual bit of park flora, within the vast landscape. These experiences result in Fong's rendering of "microhabitats" and "composite" landscapes.

"I came to Crater Lake more as an artist instead of a scientist, but it's hard not to do both," she says.

A former government soil scientist and ecologist, Fong shares an expertise with the park's first artist-in-residence, Susan Semenick, of Lizton, Ind. Also a watercolor painter, Semenick, 61, has been a professional artist for three years following a 33-year career teaching high school and junior high biology classes. She invested in plant-identification books for her residency, during which she took "tons" of photos, sketched rough outlines and painted outdoors.

"It was very inspiring — the whole place was," Semenick says.

Like McFall, Semenick was inspired by stories from the Klamath Tribes and paid tribute with her watercolor portrait "Lizzie Hook," named for a deceased tribal elder. A gift to the tribes, the piece portrays a Lost River sucker to Hook's left, symbolizing the tribes' struggles over damming the Klamath River, Semenick says.

Meeting with members of the Klamath Tribes also is an integral part of McFall's residency, which will probe their feelings around the significance of Crater Lake. Long regarded in tribal tradition as a "power place," the lake, McFall says, offers an "inward journey" that she hopes to capture in acrylic paint.

"I want to explore what we were, what we are now and what we could be."

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487, or e-mail slemon@mailtribune.com.