Getting ‘air’ from all over

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The annual Denver Plein Air Arts Festival has grown into the largest urban plein air festival in the nation, and has a new name to celebrate its expansion.

The Colorado Plein Air Festival kicked off on Aug. 1, and will host paint-outs all over the state through September, giving artists opportunities to paint some of the state’s most glorious and historic locations.

“En plein air” is a French phrase that means “in the open air” and describes art that is created outside as opposed to in a studio.

Artists literally set up their easels at an outdoor location and work there, trying to capture the essence of the scenery.

“We’ve expanded this year from just Denver locations to statewide locations, and artists will have multiple locations they can paint any time,” said Christine Serr, marketing director of the festival.

“There are specific days when a location is selected, and many artists will all gather to paint one location, but the sites can be painted whenever an artist wants.”

Some of the many locations for this year’s festival are Dinosaur Ridge, Bear Creek Lake Park, Trinidad History Museum and Chief Hosa Lodge.

The festival also has scheduled paint-outs in urban locations, including the 16th Street Mall and the Denver Art Museum.

According to Rebecca Laurie, public relations director with History Colorado, the organization worked with the Golden Triangle Museum District (GTMD) to make historic sites like the Ute Indian Museum and Buffalo Bill Museum part of this year’s program.

For seven years the GMTD, an area near downtown Denver, has hosted the Plein Air Arts Festival to celebrate painting al fresco.

Last year the district worked with Denver Mountain Parks and The Lariat Loop Heritage Alliance as a kind of test program to see if artists would participate if the festival expanded.

The answer was a resounding yes.

Some of the paint-outs will be during the day, others at night, all with the goal of capturing the scenery in different and unique lights.

Participating artists can enter one or more pieces completed during the festival in a juried competition and exhibition of selected pieces at the Denver Public Library. Participants don’t have to submit their work to be judged for display in the festival, but certainly have the option if interested.

One of the best things about this festival, according to Laurie, is the camaraderie that it fosters.

“There’s a great community spirit here, and the differences in everyone’s work are fascinating,” Laurie said. “Youth are encouraged to participate, too, so we really want people to get out and paint.”

Fans of art are also welcome to attend the paint-outs and watch as painters create their works.

The sheer variety of subjects available makes the Colorado Plein Air Festival something really special.

“There are just a wealth of painting opportunities available,” Serr said. “That’s why the expansion is so exciting.

For a schedule of paint-outs and to register, go online to www.gtmd.org/colorado-plein-air.