At the beginning of August, Cedar Breaks National Monument near Cedar City, Utah, and the Outdoor Foundation teamed up to hold Cedar Breaks Arts Afire, a new plein air event. Organizers are already planning next year’s edition….
Lead Image: Brad Holt painting at the inaugural Cedar Breaks Arts Afire event
The event featured professional artists painting en plein air in the area in July, with the public side held from July 28 through August 1. Art education programs for children rounded out the activities.
“By having artists in the parks, we honor and continue a tradition of the role artists play in showing the value of nature and how their discourse can help shape attitudes toward landscape conservation,” says Teri Saa, a National Parks Service official at the national monument. “This concept is especially true for the national parks in Southern Utah. Since the mid-1800s, artists, photographers, poets, musicians, and writers have showcased the beauty of the Southern Utah area. Their works have inspired millions from around the world to ‘Find Their Parks.’ This year’s plein air event was a sort of small practice run for next year, which will be the National Park Centennial (August 27). We are hoping to have 10 to 20 professional plein air artists painting in the Cedar Breaks and possibly Kolob area in celebration of that centennial. Artists will be selected by a jury, and the resulting work will be displayed at the newly opened museum.”
She continues, “One of the goals of the event was to raise money for future student internships and youth programs at Cedar Breaks. Shannon Eberhardt is a student intern from Southern Utah University who is paid through an internship program at SUU, the Intergovernmental Internship Cooperative. The funds raised will help support other internships such as Shannon’s. Another goal of the event was as part of a project connecting Cedar Breaks activities with Brian Head activities. The growing partnership between the park and the community benefits both.”
Brad Holt was one of the participants in the plein air event. “It seems like I have been eating and breathing Cedar Breaks all summer,” he says. “As I grew up in Cedar City, the Breaks have always been a part of my life. But it feels as though it is only now that I have really begun to know this amazing landscape on a visceral level. To be honest, I have always been somewhat intimidated, as an artist, by this place. The Claron limestones of Cedar Breaks and Bryce Canyon have to be some of the most brilliantly colored and steeply dissected terrains on the planet. When you are confronted by all that, it is difficult to know where to begin. All landscapes demand a method of simplification from the artist, but this is even more important at the Breaks. You simply don’t have time to get lost in the intricate detail. Every hoodoo in the amphitheater acts a sundial marking the swift passage of time. The color and linear makeup of the scene transform enough within a two-hour plein air session as to be an entirely different composition.
“One of the benefits of this event is that I have gained confidence as a landscape painter. I feel as though I have finally begun to get a handle on this geography, and I have come to relish every moment that I am privileged to stand before it with a brush in my hand.”