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Sat, Aug. 15

Fifth annual Grand Canyon Celebration of Art kicks off this Saturday

Art collectors and enthusiasts bid on paintings after the Celebration of Art’s quick draw competition during last year’s event. Ryan Williams/WGCN

Art collectors and enthusiasts bid on paintings after the Celebration of Art’s quick draw competition during last year’s event. Ryan Williams/WGCN

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - The Grand Canyon Association (GCA) plays host to its fifth annual Grand Canyon Celebration of Art at Grand Canyon National Park Sept.14-20. The event features 26 artists from around the country who have created a studio piece for the exhibition and will paint plein air during the week before the exhibit opens.

"Each of the artists brings their own unique perspective and interpretation of the Grand Canyon, which is one of the most challenging places in the world to paint," GCA's Kathy Duley said. "The unique viewpoint of looking down (rather than up) and the ever changing light and weather combined with the vastness of the place present unique challenges to artists. Each of our 26 artists have proven that they are up to the challenge of capturing the glorious beauty and magic of the Canyon in their distinctively unique way."

Plein air is fine art terminology meaning the quality of light and atmosphere out of doors, especially this quality as rendered in painting. This term is characterized by the representation of the luminous effects of natural light and atmosphere as contrasted with the artificial light and absence of the sense of air or atmosphere associated with paintings produced inside a studio. In other words, plein air is designating a painting executed outdoors and representing a direct response to the scene or subject in front of the artist.

Visitors to the Grand Canyon will have the opportunity to watch artists paint plein air Sept. 20 from 9-11 a.m. as they seek to represent the shifting light and shadow, amazing landforms and vibrant colors of this vast landscape.

These "quick draw" paintings will then all be auctioned at noon on the north lawn of El Tovar. The rest of the artists' pieces created during this first week will be on display and available for purchase as well at Kolb Studio after the event.

Long before there was color photography, artists like Thomas Moran and Gunner Widforss contributed to capturing the beauty and mystery of the Grand Canyon through art. It was their paintings that helped communicate to the world the need for preservation of such a special place.

In 2009, the Grand Canyon Association rejuvenated this idea and brought artists to the South Rim for a week of painting and appreciation of art in the Canyon. Today, the Celebration of Art exposes tens of thousands of people to live artist renderings at Grand Canyon. It has become the model for outdoor art events in National Parks.

"We have a very interesting program planned for Thursday evening at the Shrine of Ages," Dulay said. "Alan Petersen of the Museum of Northern Arizona and artist Elizabeth Black will be doing a presentation on the life and work of Gunnar Widforss, painter of the Grand Canyon. Alan has spent time this summer in Widforss' native Sweden doing extensive research about the artist."

Exhibition and sale of artwork will last into November at Kolb Studio. Kolb Studio is located along the Rim Trail in Grand Canyon Village, 200 yards west of Bright Angel Lodge.

Proceeds from this event will support the goal of paying for an art venue at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. This permanent home will ensure that future generations of park visitors will be able to view the stunning art collection in the Grand Canyon National Park Museum and Grand Canyon Association Collections.

More information, updates, and a full listing of all artists is available at or from Duley at (480) 277-0458 or

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