Steamboat Art Museum’s annual Plein Air week kicks off Friday

Local artist Greg Effinger creates a watercolor painting at the Main Street Steamboat Farmers Market to promote upcoming Plein Air events in the area.
Courtesy photo

Plein Air 2023 will bring 50 artists from around the country to Steamboat Springs to paint the splendor of the Yampa Valley “en plein air” or “outside on the spot.”

Steamboat Art Museum’s annual weeklong Plein Air event kicks off Friday and runs through Sept. 29, bringing artists to the area to paint on location.

This year marks the 12th annual Plein Air event and, as always, promises to showcase Steamboat, the surrounding community and the landscape through the unique light of the artists’ eyes, including the historic towns, ranches and mountain vistas of Routt County.

This event is popular among plein air artists because of Steamboat’s hospitality and breathtaking scenery, and once again this year, there will be many unique events providing opportunities to get to know the artists and purchase artwork.

Three sales events will provide an opportunity to add to or start an art collection with paintings of the Yampa Valley created by the artists. The week starts with the Quick Draw at the Main Street Steamboat Farmers Market downtown along the Yampa River.

SAM and the farmers market are partnering to add an event to the last market of the year in which people can watch the artists create a painting in only two hours. Paintings will go on sale in the afternoon on Yampa Street between Seventh and Eighth streets. 

Wednesday’s Sunset Reception presents a chance to meet the artists with their work of the day at the Alpine Mountain Ranch and Club. With easels set up around the lake with their favorite painting of the day, patrons will have time to meet and talk to the artists, learn more about their work and enjoy a buffet.

Friday’s opening reception and awards event is the exhibition opening with more than 250 paintings created during the week. More than $8,000 in awards will be presented to artists in Professional and Open Categories, as well as special Awards of Excellence presented to artists by select nonprofit organizations for works that exemplify their mission. 

This year’s event will be judged by Kathleen Hudson, an award-winning and nationally represented Colorado artist who is a Signature member of Plein Air Painters of America and the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association, and a member of Oil Painters of America and the California Art Club. Hudson will present an entertaining evening of career and technique insights at 5 p.m. Sept. 28.

SAM has partnered with nonprofits such as Main Street Steamboat and the Main Street Steamboat Farmers Market, Historic Routt County, Friends of the Yampa, Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust and the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp to allow artists to access a selection of their locations and properties. Each organization is sponsoring an Award of Excellence, which will be given to the artist whose painting best reflects the nonprofit’s mission and the image will be available for use by the organization for marketing purposes.

According to organizer, these collaborations help direct artists to safe and interesting painting locations, while also creating cross-promotional opportunities with SAM and showing that art can reach across many unrelated sectors.

In turn, the Plein Air artists and patrons can become more aware of the region’s rich historical legacy, the impacts of the ranching and agricultural sector, and the importance of the Yampa River and its tributaries, all while supporting the valley and community.

Plein Air 2023 highlights

Saturday, Sept. 23: Quick Draw at Farmers Market

• 10 a.m.–noon: Artists paint throughout the Farmer’s Market area
• 12:30–2 p.m.: Paintings for sale on Yampa Street between 8th and 9th St.

Wednesday, Sept. 27:  Sunset Reception Preview and Sale at Alpine Mountain Ranch and Club

• Sponsored by Alpine Mountain Ranch & Club, attend a special ticketed evening reception with the artists
• Meet the artists and preview their work or purchase on the spot
• $100 per person with food and drink 5–7 p.m.
• Tickets available at

Thursday, Sept. 28 – An Evening with Kathleen Hudson 5–6 p.m. 

Friday, Sept. 30: Exhibition Opening Reception, Awards and Sale at SAM

• 4-5 p.m.: Art Benefactor Early Admission Sale (Donors of $250 and up)
• 5–8 p.m.: Public Reception and Sale
• 6 p.m.: Awards Ceremony

The exhibition and sale continues through Nov. 4.  For more information and ticket purchase, visit the SAM website.

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