Artists on the Escalante

Changing light, solitude, natural sounds, stunning scenery. Four selected artists will experience all this, and more, when they take a horse pack-supported trip this fall down southern Utah’s Escalante River to paint the beauty of the Escalante River Canyon. The Escalante River Watershed Partnership, Grand Staircase Escalante Partners, and the Canyon Country Chapter of the Utah Backcountry Horsemen have joined forces with the Escalante Canyons Art Festival to give artists who are registered for the festival an additional opportunity to apply for a “Paint the River Pack Trip.”

Artists who are chosen will spend two days and one night in the canyon—hiking, experiencing its natural beauty, and painting. “It is always great to see new art,” reads the festival website. “It’s especially satisfying to see new art that serves a purpose even beyond the aesthetic.” And that purpose is to raise awareness about the issues surrounding the watershed and restoration efforts focused on the Escalante River.

Grand Staircase Escalante Partners, part of the Friends Grassroots Network and named Friends Group of the Year at last spring’s Rendezvous, has led an unprecedented restoration effort on the Escalante with more than 28 partner groups—and the hard labor of  hundreds of youth corps members and volunteers—to systematically remove Russian olive and tamarisk from the river banks.  These are invasive plant species that choke the banks and inhibit the growth of native species that wildlife need for food and habitat.

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Artists will see the results of this work, projects in progress, and learn why restoring and protecting the watershed’s resources is so important—all the while spending time in the river canyon producing art. At the conclusion of the “Paint the River Pack Trip,” each artist will give a digital scan of one of their pieces produced while in the canyon to the sponsoring organizations for use in promotional materials. Should an artist happen to sell one of these pieces during the festival, a 25% commission goes to the Escalante River Watershed Partnership.

This is a great partnership and nice way to invite new audiences to learn about the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, part of BLM’s National Conservation Lands. It takes lots of people with diverse interests—hunting, horseback riding, plein air painting, archaeology, and camping to name just a few—to best protect, restore and expand the National Conservation Lands for future generations.

  • Learn more about the Escalante Canyons Art Festival and “Paint the River Pack Trip.”
  • The Escalante River Watershed Partnership, with the help of Grand Staircase Escalante Partners, has a new website with embedded videos, watershed maps, information about the on-going restoration work, and how to get involved.
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