Zion National Park Plein Air Art Invitational – John Cogan 2016 Feature Artist

Schedule of Plein Air Events | 2016 Invited Artists | Studio Painting Exhibit & Sale

John Cogan, in awe of the beauty of creation, strives to capture it’s beauty on canvas. He paints the landscapes and wildlife of the American West in a unique style that has become known throughout the United States and the world. He works primarily in acrylic, focusing on color and the effects of light.

Zion National Park is one of John’s favorite painting destinations. He has participated in Zion National Park’s Plein Air Invitational every year since 2010, winning multiple awards including the Superintendent’s Award in 2011 and the Foundation Award in 2015.

As Foundation Award winner, John has created the painting, Waters of Evening, for the 2016 poster and publicity image. As this year’s plein air event draws closer (November 7-13, 2016), we asked John to share some of his thoughts about this annual tradition in Zion.

~ What does it mean to you to have the opportunity to paint plein air in Zion Canyon for several days in early November?

It is an opportunity like no other. Zion is a canyon of magnificent beauty, of towering monoliths with ancient names, of glittering waters and whispering trees, of intimate hideaways and enigmatic wildlife. During the course of the week these wonders take on new identities with each passing hour and with changes in the predictably unpredictable weather. To the artist it is a sacred and challenging opportunity to capture the fleeting vision of Zion on canvas.

~ What is it about the red rock country of southern Utah that draws you as a painter?

Quite simply it is the juxtaposition of the colors; of earth, of rocks, of skies and trees. Putting these down on canvas draws the artist in almost as a participant in the landscape.

~You work in several media, including writing. What is your favorite way to express what Zion Canyon means to you?

I like writing about what I love and I enjoy painting in pencil, oil and watercolor. But I feel as if I do my most satisfying work in acrylic. The colors are unmatched and the rapid drying time allows me to work in layers, one of my favorite techniques.

~ What do you enjoy most about the Zion Plein Air Event, and why?

Spending a week meeting and working with others who share the same love for Zion as I have.

~ What are the challenges and rewards of painting plein air?

The biggest challenge is getting the painting done in its essentials before the light changes. This includes an accurate drawing, a concise composition and getting the colors right. Succeeding at these tasks rewards the artist with an intimate souvenir of a special time and a special place.

~ Other thoughts you’d like to share…

As I grow older I appreciate more and more what a short time each of us has to make an impact on the preservation of the beauty we have been given, especially at a place like Zion. I hope I will be able to say I have discharged my duty well.

Photo by Tif Hafen, John Cogan painting along the Virgin River.

SEEING IT FOR THE FIRST TIME, AGAIN Plein Air Art… Centennial Edition

Schedule of Plein Air Events | 2016 Invited Artists | Featured Artist: John Cogan

By Lyman Hafen, Executive Director

Every day multitudes of people see Zion National Park for the first time.  Their heads tilt reverently back and their gleaming eyes trace the towers of Kayenta and Navajo sandstone from the Virgin River’s edge up and up through the sedimentary ages to where the red and white pinnacles finally break against the purple sky like the spires and turrets of otherworldly castles.

But they say you can only see it for the first time, once.

That is just one reason why the Zion National Park Plein Air Art Invitational event is so important.  During the first full week of November each year, 24 artists spend five days painting in the park, translating onto canvas and paper the wonder, the mystery, and the indescribable beauty of the canyon.  Their work preserves their most intimate impressions of Zion Canyon and allows us to experience again and again the joy of seeing it for the first time.

Over the past 130 years, gifted artists, from Thomas Moran to Frederick Dellenbaugh, Maynard Dixon, and Jimmie Jones, have opened our eyes to the massive grandeur and intimate beauty of Zion. Today, great artists continue to capture the essence of Zion in ways that allow us to see it all anew.

Maynard Dixon once said his mind was “set to tell the truth of it” on paper and on canvas. The truth of Zion Canyon is revealed to anyone who raises his eyes to its pinnacles, and though it may be true that you can see it for the first time only once, the superb art generated in Zion’s annual plein air event allows us to view a stirring variety of interpretations of Zion over and over. Through the transforming power of art, our souls are sparked and our hearts renewed with the wonder we felt that first time.

Twenty-four invited artists will paint in Zion Canyon during the week of November 7-13, 2016, celebrating the role art played in the creation of the park. This year’s eighth annual event is being billed as the “Centennial Edition,” celebrating the influence of original art in the founding of the National Park Service one hundred years ago.

Among this year’s selected artists are long-standing favorites, a few who have been away for a while, as well as six brand new artists to the event. There are 16 oil painters, three watercolor artists, two who work in acrylic, and three pastel artists. This year’s featured artist, selected as last year’s Foundation Award Winner, is John Cogan of Farmington, New Mexico. Cogan’s new painting, “Waters of Evening” is featured in this year’s advertising and promotional materials.

As part of this year’s “Centennial Edition” of Plein Air, each artist is invited to submit one studio painting of a national park other than Zion. Those paintings, along with one other studio painting by each artist, will hang in the Zion Human History Museum beginning September 14 through the end of the Plein Air Week in November. The studio paintings are on sale as soon as they are hung. The plein air paintings produced during Plein Air Week will go on sale Friday evening, November 11, at an invitation only preview event for art buyers. Then, beginning Saturday morning at 9 am, the show opens to the public and remains open, 9 am to 5 pm through November 28, 2016.

Keeping with tradition, each artist will give a free one-hour painting demonstration during the week, on the patio of the Zion Human History Museum. Visitors may also interact with artists throughout the week as they paint at various locations in the canyon.

Saturday of Plein Air Week has become one of the most fascinating days of the year in the park as all 24 artists participate in a “Paint Out” and sale held up-canyon on the lawn of the Zion Lodge. Between 11 am and 2 pm, visitors can watch each of the artists paint in fairly close proximity and if their heart settles on a particular painting, they can put their name on it and claim it for purchase, even before it’s completed. In the meantime, a silent auction of the paintings produced for the demonstrations during the week will be ongoing in the Lodge Auditorium. When the bell rings, each painting goes to the highest bidder on the bid sheet.

This year’s Centennial Edition of Plein Air will also feature a special slate of free lectures on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings, as well as a Friday morning presentation by Zion Canyon Field Institute Director Michael Plyler on the role of art in the creation of the National Parks.

If you can only spend a few days, or even one day, in Zion National Park this year, make plans for that visit in early November when the air is inspiringly crisp, the leaves are golden, and the artists are at work. And see the canyon for the “first time,” again.

Painting- Waters of  Evening by John Cogan


How will you celebrate the Centennial of the National Park Service?

During the summer of, 1916, Congress approved a bill to create a National Park Service and forwarded it for signature to President Woodrow Wilson. On August 25, President Wilson signed the bill, and finally, the nation’s national parks and monuments had a federal bureau to oversee them.

Like most great stories, the national park story centers on a few key people in the right place at the right time. In this story, the key player was Stephen T. Mather, a successful businessman and lover of nature and the outdoors, who had come to Washington, D.C. from his home in California to work with then Secretary of the Interior Franklin Lane. The moment in time was 1915 and 1916, when Mather, expecting to help out for no more than a year, came to Washington and accepted responsibility for managing the parks and monuments that existed at the time, and took over the life of his initially reluctant young assistant, a fledgling attorney named Horace Albright.

Mather’s goal, quite simply, was to revolutionize America’s relationship with its still-young collection of federal parks.

Creation of the National Park Service was the culmination of a campaign of planning, strategizing and promoting led by two of the right men at the right time in the right place.

Once the bill was passed, President Wilson asked Mather to stay, along with his able assistant Horace Albright, as director and assistant director of the new National Park Service. Mather would remain in his role for the next decade. What the two of them accomplished during those years, and the work that Albright continued to do after succeeding Mather as director, is legendary. Their vision, their dedication, and their ability to get things done made all the difference in the amazing national park system we enjoy today.

This year we’ve been celebrating the Centennial of the National Park Service in a variety of ways. In the spirit of the Centennial theme of “Find Your Park,” we hope you’ve sought out and found your park this year. We know that for many of you, that park is Zion and we are grateful for the support you give this wonderful place as a member of Zion Natural History Association.  On August 25, we hope you will join us in taking some time to deeply contemplate what the national parks mean to you, how blessed we are to have them, and consider what you can do, as the right person in the right place, at the right time, to make a difference in their future.

By Lyman Hafen, Executive Director



On July 6, Zion Natural History Association and its fundraising arm, the Zion National Park Foundation, received official notification of a $201,000 grant provided by American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. We qualified for the grant as one of the top nine most voted for parks in the Partners in Preservation: National Parks campaign. And we thank all of you who participated in the voting that occurred daily from late May to July 5.

The Foundation will apply the grant to help preserve and maintain the historic Zion-Mount Carmel Highway Switchbacks and the iconic 1.1-mile tunnel in the park, and will receive the grant by September 2016. Work on the project is already underway.

Our initiative to vie for this grant proved that Zion National Park is a national treasure in the hearts of a large number of the 190,000 people who participated in the voting. It’s heartening to see how our proposal stood up with those of many of the great national parks across the country. The effort allowed us to connect with thousands of friends of Zion National Park, and shows how much people care about its future.

A decade after its inception, Partners in Preservation, a community-based initiative created to raise awareness of the importance of preserving historic places, honored the National Park Service Centennial by directing its efforts to historic sites within national park units in need of preservation support. Twenty different park sites with unique histories, reflective of the diverse communities and experiences that comprise our nation’s cultural fabric, participated in the campaign. The nine winning sites accumulated the most votes throughout the campaign hosted by media partner National Geographic.

“We are thrilled with the response and support for Partners in Preservation: National Parks and are proud to be awarding $2 million in grants to extraordinary sites that tell the story of our national park system and reflect the rich cultural resources within it,” said Timothy J. McClimon, president of the American Express Foundation. “The campaign received more than 1.1 million votes. We thank everyone who voted and applaud all participants of the campaign, as each helped further the public dialogue about the National Park Service’s preservation needs.”

“Partners in Preservation: National Parks has shone new light on the importance of rehabilitating historic resources in national parks and provided much needed funding to make them more accessible to visitors for years to come,” said Stephanie K. Meeks, President and CEO, National Trust for Historic Preservation. “And through their participation in the campaign, more than 190,000 Americans have reaffirmed that these places matter – to our history, our nation, and our communities.”

“The Partners in Preservation program is an excellent example of the many ways private organizations have always been essential to the success and longevity of the National Park System,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “These grants will enable our parks to restore and preserve priceless historical features that make a visit to a national park so unique.”


Zion Nature Center Youth Programs

Sounds of laughter fill the building. A ranger sits in front of a large group of excited children. The children squirm with anticipation, their eager face’s lighting up when told they are going on a dinosaur scavenger hunt. Parents, tired from the heat of the day smile at the inexhaustible excitement of the children. A child jumps up and shouts “Look! There is a dinosaur track!” And with that, the children are off. Eyes on the ground, yelling to each other, ranger and parents following closely behind, the children travel back in time to an age when dinosaurs roamed.

It’s a typical Friday afternoon at the Zion Nature Center.


The Zion Nature Center, located next to the South Campground, offers youth specific programs from Memorial Day to Labor Day which encourages a highly interactive family learning experience. Nature Center staff offers a mixture of programs which enable youth and their families to discover amazing animal adaptions, explore complexities of nature, learn about powerful geological forces, and much more. Program participants create skits, sing and dance, play games, dress-up, and build a variety of crafts. All programs are carefully developed by staff to create a fun and enjoyable learning experience for visiting youth and their families.

Emerald Pools Trailhead_Visitor Engagement_2016

Youth programs are not only found at the Nature Center but all over the park, at various locations. Youth and families may stop at the Emerald Pools trailhead to touch a beaver pelt, join a group playing nature games on the Zion Lodge lawn, or even look closely through a magnifying glass at macro-invertebrates at the Riverside Walk. For full listings of program times and locations refer to the park’s Map and Guide or website.

As the summer draws to an end the Youth Program will switch over to school programming, bringing students from local communities and underserved populations to Zion National Park. Students participate in nationally recognized programs exploring the beauty and wonder of the park.

All of these programs, youth and school focused, would not be possible without the generous support from ZNHA members and donors, for which we thank you. We would love to encourage all of you to come visit us at the Nature Center this summer, check out one of our many programs, or explore our new exhibits.

Article by Joy Kacoroski, Lead Education Technician Youth Program Zion National Park

Photos courtesty NPS

New Faces at ZNHA

The domino effect is happening at ZNHA. Growing park visitation means increased sales, which necessitates more stock, equating to the growth of ZNHA.

This spring, ZNHA added staff including new faces in the warehouse and a graphics arts specialist. A big welcome is extended to Zack, new warehouse manager; and Bryce and Brady, seasonal warehouse technicians, who receive and distribute stock to the retail stores. Also, Wade Wixom joins the staff in the Graphics Communication department.

Along with a local southern Utah lad, these guys come from Salt Lake City Utah,  Dallas Texas and Lander Wyoming. We asked them what advice they would give to first time visitors. The responses started with a good, solid decree from Zack who said, “drink lots of water, wear sunscreen, and ride the shuttle.” Brady thinks, “Doing more than riding the shuttle is important – like take a hike and see more of the park than what you see on the shuttle.” Bryce expanded on the previous thought, “Talk to a ranger, sit in on a ranger talk and learn about the park, read the Park Map and Guide.” Ahhh…there’s some good advice. Most of the answers to your questions can be found there! Wade moonlights with excursions outside the park and suggests “leave enough time to get off the beaten path at some point.”

We asked them why they wanted to work for ZNHA. Bryce thought it a good way to get to know more about Zion National Park. Brady knows we are friendly people who help preserve the park; and Zack says he is “passionate about protecting this amazing park and would do anything that helps to preserve it.” Wade is also passionate about the park and “loves to get others excited about experiencing and protecting it.”

What do they enjoy most about working for ZNHA? Naturally the popular response was the friendly people they work with and the opportunity to work in this great park. Bryce expounded, “To be honest, I love my coworkers! Also, Zack telling me about all the amazing back-country hikes. I love exploring Zion!!”  Wade “loves coming into the park each day to work for a great cause.” Zack’s response, “Being a non-profit, I love that all the money goes right back to Zion.”

Wade’s favorite place in the park is, “any place that isn’t crowded. I love to go to Kolob Terrace, Kolob Canyons and the east side.” He also loves the off season. Brady’s favorite spot in the park is Hidden Canyon; Zack said Shelf Canyon just east of the Canyon Overlook Trail; and Bryce’s favorite, “probably Kolob Canyons. Nobody knows/goes there.” Oops! Now the cat is out of the bag.

We are so thrilled to have these guys with us to ease the growing pains which come with unprecedented growth. Thanks to each of you for the part you play as we expand.