A haven for the arts surrounded by natural beauty, Moab can host an arts festival unlike any other town.
On Saturday, Oct. 14, community vendors, musical acts, and food trucks gathered to celebrate the annual Plein Air painting event and street festival on 100 North. A week prior to the street fair, artists representing 18 states and two countries traveled to Moab to paint at several locations in the great outdoors.
Plein Air painting relies on the idea of painting in open air, focusing on painting what the artist sees, and seeking sunlight.
“It’s a dynamic environment,” said Linda Fleischman, one of the artists. “The different colors create a lot of enthusiasm in the work.”
Fleischman traveled to Moab from Florida, where she practices her art. She and her husband first visited Moab about a year ago, when she picked up a brochure for the Red Rock Arts Festival and immediately made plans to return for the event.
“The whole common thread in my own artistic movement is painting and drawing from life,” Fleischman explained, describing why she enjoys the Plein Air style, and why Moab is an ideal location in which to paint.
This year, though, the festival became much more than a painting event.
Amidst Saturday’s street fair, organizer Liz Holland stepped inside the Moab Arts and Recreation Center, away from the commotion of the busy street, and reflected on what made this year’s festival such a success.
“There was a real decline after 2015,” she said, “and we set out to bring it back.”
Holland has been working tirelessly for the past two years to bring artists to the festival, and its notoriety has grown steadily. She also explained that this year saw the addition of Meg Stewart to the organizational team.
“Meg added a real energy and enthusiasm to the festival,” added Holland, explaining that Stewart took the initiative to add live music and other events to the traditionally painting-based festival.
Inside the MARC, the walls were lined with Plein Air paintings of Dead Horse Point State Park, Arches National Park, the La Sal Mountains, and other notable local nature scenes. Crowds of people milled through to admire the award winning art and then headed outside to enjoy the street fair.
The fair spread out on 100 North, closed to automobile traffic so attendees could amble through the street and visit the various tents.
“It was a full city effort,” Holland reflected, nodding to collaborative efforts between the city, the arts center, and a number of nonprofits and vendors that set up tents and food trucks at the festival.
At the KZMU booth, owner of Red Rock Bakery Howard Trenholme helped children make art pieces using paint, a bicycle, and old records. He spoke of how the entire community had come together to participate in the festival, saying, “We all wear multiple hats in Moab.”
In addition to the KZMU booth, there were tents representing the Youth Garden Project, The Hippie Spot Recyclery and Community Rebuilds, among others.
A crowd favorite was the open-air beer garden. “Beer outside in Moab?” posited local Chris Brunner, “You’ve got to wear a lederhosen!”
The street fair drew a crowd of residents and tourists alike. There were attractions appealing to children and adults of all ages.
Contemplating the impressive turnout, Liz Holland reflected on her fears prior to the event, saying, “Before an event like this, you have so many worries that it won’t work out. What if people don’t move their cars? What if no one shows up?”
The cars were moved, and the town certainly showed up — with Holland saying that this year’s festival had the “best attendance” she has ever seen.
“The town is already gearing up for next year,” Holland said.