Evolution of the Festival
Plein Air Moab made its debut in the spring of 2009 in Moab, Utah. Modeled after the Escalante Canyons Art Festival, a Moab artist and the Moab Arts & Recreation Center organized a Plein Air Advisory Board to manage the heavy workload involved in organizing a festival. Over the years, several artists and art enthusiasts rallied in support of the event. The first Plein Air Competition hosted roughly 25 artists. Plein Air Moab originated as an 8-day gathering of local and nationally known artists celebrating open air painting in breathtaking environments. Plein Air Moab culminated in competitions, awards and the sale of wet paintings.
Year after year, Plein Air Moab continued to grow until reaching its peak in 2014 with a record 100-130 artists participating and over 400 art lovers in attendance.
In 2015, the heavy workload took a toll on the small team and Gallery Moab stepped in to offer support. The small cooperatively owned gallery partnered with the MARC and scaled the event back to a "Le Petit" event hosting 7 workshops and one downtown Moab quick draw painting competition. The focus of the event was shifted from competition to education, camaraderie, and inspiration.
From there, in 2016, the event continued with a fresh Advisory Board and new MARC staff. This year was the first ever to include permits for Arches National Park and the artists were finally able to paint the world famous scenery that makes Moab truly unique!
The birth of Red Rock Arts Festival was in 2017. Building off of the original plein air painting competition, the event was rebranded to broaden art opportunities for artists and art enthusiasts. The new addition of the Street Festival gave fresh life to the event. Live music, food, artisan vendors, and kids activities were added to the schedule to increase attendance, art sales, and provide attendees with an opportunity to experience different art forms.
Red Rock Arts Festival continued through 2019, offering more workshops and different types of art to the community, in addition to the normal line-up of plein air painting activities and awards. Even more artists were brought back to Arches National Park for round two, only this time with less restrictions on painting locations and the number of participants.
Along comes COVID-19. Due to the pandemic, the beloved arts festival came to halt in 2020. The MARC shifted into planning a tentative but hopeful event for 2021. With ongoing pandemic uncertainty affecting travel and gathering plans, plein air registration drastically decreased.
What to expect for 2021: The MARC is still committed to facilitating the Red Rock Arts Festival through its challenges and evolution. It is with great enthusiasm that we get to host plein air artist and former Plein Air Moab award winner Lewis Williams at the MARC. His amazing bicycle journey across U.S. historic trails has all been captured on canvas. His adventure will be on display for all to enjoy, and his paintings will be available to purchase. Art workshops and events, plein air paintings, and the Street Fest will continue this year—without the painting competitions. Lewis and the MARC have extended an invite to Plein Air Moab participants to showcase their works of art along with his.
Throughout the years the festival has hosted many famous workshop instructors and judges such as Kathryn Stats, George Handrahan, Brienne Brown, Betty Carr, Lyn Boyer, Joshua Bean, Jill Carver, Clive Tyler, and Roland Lee, to highlight a few. The 12-year-long event has seen its participants grow from being competitors to becoming judges, workshop teachers, and award winning artists. We can't wait to see how this tremendous event evolves and we can't thank you all enough for your ongoing support!
Joshua Been- Best of Show 2019
David Cassill- Best of Show 2018
Allen Brockbank- Best of Show 2017
Lyn Boyer- Best of Show 2016
Debbie Broadhead - 1st Place Oil 2015
Jonathan Frank- 1st Place Watercolor 2014
Cliff Austin- Best of Show 2013
Larry Rudolech- Best of Show 2012
Brienne Brown- 1st Place Watercolor 2011
Steve Chamberlain- 1st Place Oil 2010