Plein Air Festival

Plein Air. It’s a French expression. Translated, it means “in the open air”, and in the painting world, it means “to paint outdoors”. Many schools of art have noted the importance of natural light and painting in nature, but it’s not just a French concept. We now have festivals everywhere that are devoted to this idea, painting in the open air, and the Telluride Plein Air Festival is one of them.

For over a decade, the Telluride Plein Air Festival has been ongoing. And, what an ideal place for art. In late June and early July, the mountains of the Telluride region are breathtaking. You’ll find the aspens, green and quake throughout town and on the mountains, along with Cottonwood trees and the sturdy pines showing their new growth. Orange poppies, yellow daffodils, and pink tulips grow in front yard gardens in Telluride, along with fragrant lilac and wild rose and more dandelions than you can imagine. Views of Ajax, Bridal Veil Falls, and Ingram Falls amaze onlookers in the canyon, and the sky is bluer than most people have ever seen it. There is a reason why some people claim that Telluride really is the most beautiful place in the world. For this reason, alone, many painters apply for the opportunity to come to the Telluride Plein Air Festival in the summer. The online process happens the previous fall. The Plein Air Festival reports a high turn out rate for applications and does encourage those that don’t make it try again. Twenty-some painters are selected from the process to join Plein Air, painting and sharing their work.

Schedules are online, and look something like this: Artists arrive a week before culminating events and begin painting. You’ll see them throughout the town, set up with easels, pallets, brushes, and in the zone. They might chat a little with passers-by, but they are working on capturing their expression of their Telluride experience, what caught their attention, their small moment of grandeur. Later these pieces will be for sale in Telluride at the end of the Plein Air Festival. There are a Quick Draw and Sale for Plein Air, where audiences can watch artists working in the moment and all at the same time. These pieces are then sold on the spot, and viewers can purchase pieces from the talent that has traveled so far for the experience.

Through invitation only, there is a VIP event for the Artist Choice Preview and Wine Tasting. This typically occurs at the legendary Sheridan Opera House and showcases some of the best paintings of the week created at Plein Air and the grand finale of the festival is the two-day sale, where painters release their work to the public at the free event. Here, anyone can purchase the creations the Plein Air artists have just completed memorializing Telluride in the fullness of the summer season.

Plein Air in Telluride really has become a beautiful tradition, and one that most people find fascinating- to watch art as it is created in the glory of the Telluride canyon.

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Plein Air Festival

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