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Fifth Annual Zion National Park Plein Air Art Invitation Opens Monday


The Fifth Annual Zion National Park Plein Air Invitation opens Monday and runs through next weekend. Zion National Park Foundation photo.

If you stand on the floor of Zion Canyon in Zion National Park, the sandstone cliffs soar in all directions above your head. They're perfect for picturing -- either with your camera, or with paint and brush.

Painters will be plentiful in the canyon this week, too, as the Zion National Park Foundation hosts its Fifth Annual Zion National Park Plein Air Art Invitational from Monday through next Monday.

The event celebrates the role art has played in the creation and history of the park by hosting 24 of the country’s finest landscape artists for a week of painting and teaching in the park. The artists will paint plein air (on location) throughout the week in many of the same locations that iconic artists such as Thomas Moran painted when this landscape was first exposed to the American public.

Park visitors during the week will have many unique opportunities to watch great artists at work in the park, as well as attend daily painting demonstrations and lectures.

An exhibit of samples of the artists’ studio work will hang in the Zion Human History Museum from September 16 to November 11.

This coming Friday evening the Zion Nature Center will be transformed into an art gallery as more than 150 paintings produced during the week are hung for a gala reception and sale to invited guests. The wet paint sale opens to the public on Saturday morning and runs through Sunday and Monday, November 9-11, at the Nature Center.

From 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday, November 9, a lively Paint Out event will be held on the lawn in front of the Zion Lodge, beneath Zion Canyon’s towers of stone. During the Paint Out visitors can purchase the amazing paintings produced by the invitational artists as they are being painted. All artists, young and old, beginner and master, who are in the park that day are welcome to join the Paint Out. A silent auction in the Lodge Auditorium of the demonstration pieces produced during the week by the invited artists will take place concurrent with the Paint Out.

Event proceeds go to the Zion National Park Foundation to support important projects in the park, including the successful Zion Youth Education Initiative, making it possible for children throughout the area to visit the park and have a potentially life-changing educational experience.

“This is an amazing event that partners the community with the park and combines art and philanthropy,” said Lyman Hafen, the Foundation's executive director. “Art has a very firm place in the history of Zion Canyon and in the story that led to it becoming a National Park. Today, artists, donors, sponsors and visitors continue that rich tradition, preserving the wonder that is Zion National Park for future generations, and enhancing the experience of everyone who comes here.”


ec – At least some of the opposition to the large bike races you cite was not just because they were commercial events, but because they were commercial events on such an enormous scale they would have preempted the use of the park by other visitors.

Some of the factors in a decisions on whether to approve or deny a permit for such events are found in "36 CFR 2.50 - Special events."

Here's some excerpts from those regulations applicable to events such as the bike races you mention:

"A permit shall be denied if such activities would:

....unreasonably impair the atmosphere of peace and tranquility maintained in wilderness, natural, historic, or commemorative zones.

....Unreasonably interfere with interpretive, visitor service, or other program activities, or with the administrative activities of the National Park Service; or

....Result in significant conflict with other existing uses."

The various bike racee have been debated ad nauseum in numerous Traveler posts, but since you brought it up, in my opinion such events fail to pass muster for all of the reasons listed above. By contrast, the small scale art event at Zion does not seem not to be a problem with those criteria.

Here's another question in context of the Zion event, which donated at least some of the resulting revenue to support park activities:

How much money did the bike race organizers offer to donate to Colorado NM (above reimbursement for direct costs) if that event had been approved? How much money did the bike race organizers donate to compensate the municipality of Estes Park and other communities along the race route (and the State of Colorado) to offset the substantial law enforcement and other emergencies services costs required to support that event? As a supporter of those events, perhaps you'd like to offer that information.

Your position is that "commercial is commercial," but I'd suggest there are some clear differences between these types of events in the net financial impacts on the parks - and on the ability of park visitors who had no interest in either event to continue to enjoy the park during the events.

ec--Give it up. You are off base on this one.


ec - there are plenty of commercial activities allowed in parks - any concession not run by the park service (including food and gift sales, rooms, lodges, and tours) is commercial. Filming movies in the parks is a commercial endevour. The argument against the bike race was not solely based on the fact that it was a commercial event. What was specifically sited in the bike race rejection was, "The policies prevent officials from issuing special use permits for a for-profit event with prizes that are more than nominal....They allow approval of events only if they have a meaningful association with the park and help visitors better understand the monument."

Can you give up on this now?

Lord knows we would not want "throngs of bystanders" enjoying the park. Commercial is commercial. If the argument is no commercial activities at least be honest about it.

EC, you're comparing apples and oranges. Art and the national parks long have been linked; not so professional bike racing and the parks. This art show brings 24 artists into Zion Canyon, not 100-200 racing cyclists and throngs of bystanders crowding a narrow road.

My wife and I were fortunate enough to be in Zion last week, and saw many of the paintings in the Human History Museum. They are simply breathtaking.

This seems like a win-win for the park: introducing visitors to some great artistry that draws them nearer to the park, and raising money for a non-profit foundation that puts it back into the national park in various forms.

Since you're opposed to increased govt. spending to support parks,

Could you identify where I ever said that?

As to what difference does it make...opponents to bike racing at Colorado National Monument (and other parks) have cited the blanket ban on commercial activities as the justification. Obviously, there is no "blanket ban".

ec - and what difference does it make whether the donation was from the net or gross sales? If this was a "commercial" activity, it doesn't sound like it interfered with any normal use of the park by other visitors, (which should be a major criteria for any special event in a park) and it was likely covered by a permit of some kind.

Since you're opposed to increased govt. spending to support parks, I'd think you'd be glad to see some non-tax dollars going to that effort.

Kurt, that doesn't answer the question. Do the artists get paid for their work? "Event procedes" are typically the net of receipts less the costs of the event. In many such events, the artists pay a commission to the event coordinator but take home the bulk of the price of the art.

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