Sheridan Arts Foundation: Telluride Plein Air, June 28 – July 4, 2021

Sheridan Arts Foundation: Telluride Plein Air, June 28 – July 4, 2021

Telluride’s Sheridan Arts Foundation (SAF) hosts 21 nationally recognized plein air artists June 28-July 4, 2021, gathered in Telluride for the 18th annual Telluride Plein Air. The artists will spend a week painting outside capturing the light, colors, textures and unique character of this breathtaking 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 will be held on Friday, July 2 through Sunday, July 4, to display the completed works of art featuring flower-filled meadows, majestic mountains and colorful downtown scenery.

Artists typically paint 10 to 20 pieces, culminating in over 200 paintings to view and purchase over the course of the sale. (But only eight-10 pieces may be displayed at one time.) The painters are also allowed to display one studio piece of Telluride painted before arriving in town and denoted with a different price tag.

Telluride Plein Air’s participating artists were selected through a juried process in late 2019. Applicants submitted images and a biography to be reviewed by a panel of artists, gallery owners and educators. These artists were all asked to return in 2021 since the 17th annual Telluride Plein Air in 2020 was extremely reduced in size and happenings.

Each year the top-selling artists and the Artist Choice first place winning artist from the previous event are invited back to participate. Christine Lashley won the prestigious Artist Choice in 2019. Top sellers from 2019 returning this year are Kirsten Anderson, Jill Banks, Mat Barber Kennedy, Christine Lashley and Wayne McKenzie.

The Sheridan Arts Foundation hosted a reduced Telluride Plein Air Festival in September 2020 with 10 artists to adjust to COVID restrictions. The top sellers for that event were Jill Banks and David Dallison, but no Artist Choice competition was held.

The Sheridan Arts Foundation created this event 18 years ago to benefit community programming and the continual upkeep and restoration at the historic Sheridan Opera House in Telluride. The Sheridan Opera House has provided quality entertainment to Telluride since 1913. All artwork profits will be split with 40 percent benefiting the Sheridan Arts Foundation’s community programming and 60 percent retained by the artists.

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.


June 28 – July 4 (all day)
Plein Air artists at work, various locations in and around Telluride: Visitors and locals alike will have the unique opportunity to observe 21 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.

Wednesday, June 30 (5-7 p.m.)

Golden Hour Quick Draw Competition & Sale: See our artists in action on Colorado Avenue in this 90-minute competition. Winner will be awarded a cash prize at 6:45 p.m. All pieces will be available for sale at 6:30 p.m. outside of the Sheridan Opera House. SHOW Bar is open with a Milagro happy hour specialty drink for $5.

Thursday, July 1 (5-7 p.m.)

Milagro Artist Choice Preview & Cocktail Party: The highlight of the week, stop by the SHOW Bar at the Sheridan Opera House to preview or purchase each artist’s favorite painting. Sponsored by Milagro Tequila. All paintings will be up for sale. Artist Choice winner will be awarded at 6:30 p.m.

Friday, July 2-Sunday, July 4 (July 2-3, 10 a.m. -5 p.m./ July 4, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. 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.

Join the Sheridan Arts Foundation’s team 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 on the second day of the sale!

Special guest artisans Moon Bear Jewels will be selling their jewelry, including Songlines by Jewel, in Elks Park for each day of the sale as well.

Please note: if there is inclement weather, the sale will be moved inside the Sheridan Opera House theater.


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