Sheridan Arts Foundation: Telluride Plein Air, 6/30 -7/6

Sheridan Arts Foundation: Telluride Plein Air, 6/30 -7/6

Telluride’s Sheridan Arts Foundation (SAF) hosts 24 nationally recognized plein air artists June 30-July 6, 2019. They are gathering in town for the 16th annual Telluride Plein Air. The artists will spend one week painting outdoors, en plein air, capturing the light, color, and unique character of the breathtaking Telluride region, including the towns of Telluride and Mountain Village.

For a complete schedule of events, artist information, painting locations and sponsorship opportunities, please visit the Telluride Plein Air website at or visit the Sheridan Arts Foundation website at

A three-day art exhibition and sale, held July 4, 5 & 6, follows the week of the creative exploration that marks the start of Telluride Plein Air. On display will be art work that captures the flower-filled meadows, majestic mountains, and colorful downtown scenery of the Telluride region. Artists typically paint 10 to 20 pieces, which adds up to more than 250 works to view and purchase over the course of the sale. These painters are also allowed to display one studio piece, (marked with a unique price tag), a painting of Telluride created before arriving in town.

Artist participating in Telluride Plein Air were selected through a juried process in which applicants submitted images and a biography, which were then reviewed by a panel of artists, gallery owners, and educators. That said, each year the top-selling artists and the Artist Choice 1st place-winning painter from the previous year’s event are automatically invited back. Alison Leigh Menke won the prestigious Artist Choice in 2018. She is joined by other top-sellers including: Jill Banks, Suzie Baker, Mat Barber Kennedy, Christine Lashley, and former Telluride local and ski instructor Wayne McKenzie. In all 10 artists are new to Telluride Plein Air this year; 14 are returning.

Dallison, “Telluride Splendor, 2018.


Menke, “Morning Light, Mountains of Telluride,” 2018.


Lanzoni, “Evening at Duck Pond,” 2018.


Pacheco, “Bridal Veil Morning,” 2018.


Banks, “Market Day, Telluride, 2018.”

Telluride Plein Air, more:

The Sheridan Arts Foundation created Telluride Plein Air 16 years ago to benefit community programming and the continual restoration  and general upkeep required required to maintain the historic Sheridan Opera House. The Sheridan Opera House has provided quality entertainment in Telluride since 1913.

Profits from the sale of the art work are split: 40 percent benefiting the Sheridan Arts Foundation’s community programming; 60 percent retained by the artists.

NEW THIS YEAR: On July 3 and again on  July 5 two artists will paint models from 6-8 p.m. to display their portrait skills in addition to their obvious eye for landscape. Plein Air portrait sessions are to take place outside the Sheridan Opera House’s SHOW Bar.

In addition, the SAF has also moved its Quick Draw event from midday to the evening to take advantage of Telluride’s dramatic light. The Golden Hour Quick Draw now takes place from 5-7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 2.

What is Plein Air?

En plein air is a French expression, which means “in the open air.” The term is used to describe the act of painting outdoors, popularized in the 19th century.

Digging into the details of that story, Eugene Boudin was one of the more adventurous 19th-century painters, known primarily for his beach scenes and seascapes of northern France and for his luminous skies. One of Boudin’s students was a young painter named Claude Monet to whom Boudin taught the importance of painting a scene directly from nature in the light, in the air, just as he saw it. In the stroke of Monet’s brush, painting en plein air was born. Out went the dark palette of Realism and the Barbizon School. In came the sun.

When Monet and his colleagues first came on the scene back in 1874, artists who ultimately became brand names – Monet, Manet, Renoir, Bonnard, and Degas – they were all considered rebels. Defying the traditions of the official Salon de Paris, they moved their studios outdoors into the open air – again, en plein air – to facilitate the direct observation of nature.

They originally called themselves “Societe Anonyme,” but a critic hatched what he believed to be a derisive handle based on the title of one of Monet’s paintings in a group show: “Impression: Sunrise.”

The Impressionists chose to use landscapes and scenes from everyday life as covers for their true subjects, color and light, defying a trend popular throughout the 19th century (and with the Salon de Paris) to paint historical or literary subjects.


Impressionism is an old idea.

With new blood.

Artists in the United States were attracted to the spontaneity of the Impressionist artists and the freedom of creating in the Great Outdoors instead of in the confines of a studio. Many, like Californian Guy Rose, traveled to France to study with the Frenchmen. Suddenly, locations blessed with remarkable light became the go-to for painters on both coasts and in American Southwest, where colonies o American Impressionists formed.

Schedule of Events:

June 30 – July 6 – all day

Plein Air artists at work, various locations in and around Telluride: Visitors and locals alike will have the unique opportunity to observe 24 of the nation’s top plein air artists as they paint on location in Telluride, Colorado. Artists paint on site during the sale as well.

Tuesday, July 2 (5-7 p.m.)

Golden Hour Quick Draw Competition & Sale: See artists in action on Colorado Avenue in this 90-minute competition. Winner will be awarded $800. All pieces will be available for sale at 6:30 p.m. outside the Sheridan Opera House.

Wednesday, July  3

Artist Choice Cocktail Party: Stop by the SHOW Bar at the Sheridan Opera House to preview or purchase each artist’s favorite piece created throughout the week in Telluride. All paintings will be up for sale.

5-6 p.m. VIP Artist Choice: Annual supporters of the Sheridan Opera House will be invited for a cocktail party to preview the crème de la crème of the Telluride Plein Air.

6-7 p.m.: open to the public: The Artist Choice winner will be awarded at 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, July 4 – Saturday, July 6

Plein Air Exhibition & Art Sale – Sheridan Opera House Courtyard /Elks Park – This event is free and open to the public. Plein Air memorabilia (posters, notecards and small prints) will be available for sale in addition to paintings.

July 4- 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. | July 5 – 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. | July 6 – 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. (pause from 11 a.m. – 12 p.m. for the Fourth of July parade)

Join the SAF in the Sheridan Opera House courtyard and Elks Park for a sale of paintings created during the week-long celebration. Please note that artists are limited to hanging eight-10 paintings at one time, so new paintings will continually be displayed as others sell — especially the second day of the sale!

Enter to win prizes from Tito’s Handmade Vodka, a sponsor of the 16th annual Telluride Plein Air, at the sales table each day. Raffle winners will be announced each day. Please note: if the weather does not cooperate, the sale will be moved inside the Sheridan Opera House theater.

Join the SAF at the sale July 4-6 for special guest artisans Christopher Beaver, Ava Nelson, and Colleen Thompson selling their jewelry (including Songlines by Jewel) in Elks Park.


All net proceeds retained by the SAF will benefit community programming of the Sheridan Arts Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization operating out of the historic Sheridan Opera House. The SAF’s mission is to preserve the historic Sheridan Opera House as an arts and cultural resource for the Telluride community, bring quality arts and cultural events to Telluride, and provide local and national youth with access and exposure to the arts through education.

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