Art and Artisan Food Meet at the Rio Grande Winter Market with Urban Plein Air

Simply put, plein air painting is the act of painting outside. But rather than merely an opportunity for an artist to get out of the studio, the genre allows a multi-sensory immersion into a landscape that, hopefully, yields a much richer piece of work than when painting from a photograph or memory. And while painters like Monet and Renoir pioneered the practice by capturing idyllic scenes of gardens and the seaside, modern plein air painters are much more likely to find inspiration in capturing, and therefore appreciating the beauty in, everyday moments and scenes. 

So says, Trish Melander, one of the five local artists that will be painting “en plein air” at the Urban Plein Air at the Market, held at the Downtown Winter Market, March 7 and 14, 2020. “I’ve been plein air painting for the past five years, and the reason I do it is that it allows me to do two things I love at the same time: be outside and paint,” Melander says. Melander’s favorite places to paint outside, “even when it’s freezing or really hot” are the environments she’s most familiar with, places like the buildings and cityscapes she passes on her commute to her day job as a genealogist at “I’m really drawn to architecture and how light plays off buildings,” she says; the easily-accessible rural landscapes just outside of Salt Lake’s city limits, like along the Jordan River, “It’s surprising how quickly you can get to rural areas from where I live near Liberty Park;” and the Winter Market. “We get our meat through a vendor at the Winter Market and I am really excited for the opportunity to get to paint there,” she says.

As part of Urban Plein Air at the Market, Melander, along with the four other jury-selected artists—Allyson Terry, Craig Nielsen, Charles Pfaffe and Heather Olsen—will be painting two 12-inch-square canvases during the Winter Market hours, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., on March 7 and 14.  The artists will then offer for sale the work they’ve made during the Urban Plein Air event at the Winter Market on March 21. “March tends to be kind of a slower, more in-between time downtown and so we thought that reviving the Urban Plein Air event [held previously in the downtown core in summer 2018] at the Winter Market would be a great way to benefit both the artists and the market vendors,” said Cassandra Yerkes, operations manager for THE BLOCKS.

March is also one of the best times to visit the Winter Market, held Saturdays at the at the Rio Grande Depot (270 S. Rio Grande St) through April 18. The weather is beginning to warm and growers are starting to see fresh produce from green houses as well as cold-weather crops. This weekend, some of the fresh produce you can expect includes microgreens, potatoes, garlic, carrots, herbs, spinach, parsnips and apples from Pyne Farms, Clifford Family Farm, Old Home Place, Blue Spring Farm, Asian & Heirlooms, Intermountain Gourmet Mushrooms, Zoe’s Natural Garden and dozens of others. And, of course, the Winter Market is always a great one-stop venue to access the best of the region’s grass-fed meats, dairy, honey eggs and baked goods. 

With this weekend’s Urban Plein Air event going on, why not make a day of visiting the Winter Market? Food trucks line up along Rio Grande Street with ready-to-eat fare and temps this Saturday are expected to reach a lovely 60 degrees. When you go, be sure to say hello to one of the Urban Plein Air artists. Melander is hoping to find a spot to paint on the Rio Grande Depot’s back patio. “All the vendor booths will be backlit there and everything—people, produce, whatever—is more beautiful when backlit,” she says.


Written by Melissa Fields