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“Chance of Precipitation” 2021, by Kirsten Anderson

About Telluride Plein Air

– Sheridan Arts Foundation & Sheridan Opera House –

The Telluride Plein Air Festival is an essential fundraiser for the Sheridan Arts Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization created to restore and preserve the Sheridan Opera House while bringing quality arts and entertainment to the town of Telluride. Forty percent of the revenue from each plein air art sale goes to the Sheridan Arts Foundation (SAF), supporting community programming at the Sheridan Opera House.

Plein air artists interested in joining the festival should read about the application process.

The Sheridan Opera House was built by the Telluride miners in 1913 as a vaudeville theater and cultural center; since then, performers from Lillian Gish and Sarah Bernhardt to Jimmy Buffet and Jewel have graced our stage. Today this intimate 238-seat theater has become Telluride’s premiere venue featuring live theater, concerts, movies, lectures; as well as private rentals for special events.

Telluride Plein Air Festival

In 2003, the Sheridan Arts Foundation first collaborated with Keith Wicks, executive director of Sonoma Plein Air, to produce the Telluride Plein Air Festival. Twenty years later and this week of outdoor art has become an indispensable part of Telluride’s Independence Day festivities.

In addition to observing some of the nation’s top plein air artists at work, Telluride Plein Air Festival allows locals and tourists alike enjoy watching our two-hour quick draw competition. The festival culminates in a three-day sale, where the artists display the work they created all week long.

What is Plein Air?

En plein air is a French expression which means “in the open air”, and is used to describe the act of painting outdoors.

The popularity of painting en plein air increased in the 1870s with the introduction of paint in tubes, which replaced the task of grinding and mixing dry pigment powders with linseed oil. This development increased the ease and portability of art supplies, making treks into the forest and up the hillsides more appealing to those looking to paint new landscapes.

Lead by the Impressionists, painters took their paint tubes and easels outdoors, where they recreated the world through vivid use of color. Although at first rebuffed for what appeared to be unfinished paintings, the Impressionist vision soon became a standard for truthfully conveying the outdoor experience. Suddenly, locations with remarkable light were of particular interest to painters.

Today, there are more than 500 registered plein air artists in the United States working “en plein air” to capture the light and colors particular to a location.

Sheridan Arts Foundation Youth Programming

The Wild West Fest

Wild West Fest celebrates its 30th year bringing Western arts, culture, and customs to youth from the region and Boys and Girls Clubs of America! Each summer, the SAF hosts 35-50 kids for a week of empowering mentorship activities in Telluride.

Through the non-competitive Chip Allen Mentorship Program, they build self confidence and friendships while participating in hands-on activities and mentorship groups including Native American and Modenr Dance, Life on the Ranch, Fly Fishing, Outdoor Adventure and Rock & Roll Academy.

It is in the SAF’s mission to provide this program free of all cost to the attending groups each year. If you would like to support this program by sponsoring a child please contact the Sheridan Arts Foundation event director Ronnie Palamar.

The Young People’s Theater

The SAF’s Young People’s theater offers dramatic workshops and theater classes for children ages 3 to 18. This non-competitive, innovative program enrolls over 200 students annually in classes including improvisational drama, preschool dramatic play, acting techniques, and performance workshops that culminate in productions of full length musical plays.

Some past performances include “Beauty and the Beast,” “Anything Goes,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Grease” and “Peter Pan.” The Sheridan Arts Foundation has awarded over $160,000 in scholarship awards to Telluride’s youth since the program’s inception. Additionally, we subsidize all tuition prices to keep them affordable for all families. The YPT is supported in part by the Telluride Foundation, the Commission for Community Assistance, Arts & Special Events (CCAASE) and the Just For Kids Foundation

Town of Telluride

Nestled in a box canyon, surrounded by the magestic San Juan Mountains, the more than century-old Town of Telluride is filled with colorful legends and the Rocky Mountain Spirit. Just six blocks wide and 12 blocks long, the National Historic District is a window into the town’s mining past and a showcase of spirited individualism and community pride. Filled with colorful Victorian homes, clapboard storefronts, boutiques, art galleries, bookstores, gourmet restaurants, historic buildings and much more, the town is a delight to explore. The heartbeat of a vibrant past lives in Telluride’s present…and its future. For more information about Telluride please visit the Telluride Tourism Board.

Sheridan Arts Foundation Staff

Click on images below to email any of our wonderful staff members.

Ronnie Palamar

Event Director

Steve Palamar


Maggie Stevens

PR & Marketing Director

Josh Laydon

Production Manager

Leah Nikula

Artistic Director

Carrie Cook

Finance & Administration Manager

Emma Gross

Box Office Manager

A presentation of the Sheridan Arts Foundation.