Wyoming Arts Council

Plein Air in the Parks

The Wyoming Arts Council partners with Wyoming State Parks to hold various arts activities in State Parks across the state throughout the year. Plein Air in the Parks is a painting and drawing competition event that happens twice a year that pairs talented artists with beautiful locations.

What is Plein Air in the Parks?

Started in 2017, the Wyoming Arts Council’s Plein Air in the Parks is a collaborative 5-day long event coordinated by Wyoming State Parks and the Wyoming Arts Council.

These events are open to artists of all ages. This painting and drawing competition and pairs talented artists with beautiful locations, while offers cash prizes to top participants.

Other highlights during the events include artist meet and greets, mini-workshops and demonstrations, social meet-ups, and youth-focused art activities. A private judging followed by public reception with an awards shows and sale also take place at the end of the event.

Sunday’s Awards Ceremony, Reception, and Art Sale

See the artwork created throughout the event, cast your vote for the People’s Choice Award, and purchase artwork from the sale. No admission will be charged to attend the show and sale on Sunday afternoon.

Youth/Teen Plein Air Activities

Youth and Teen Artists can visit the park and start creating their work 6 weeks before the on-site event. Youth artwork can dropped off early to be included in the show and sale at the Curt Gowdy Visitor Center any time throughout the month prior to the drop off deadline. Registration fees are due at sign up or drop off.

Kids Paint Activity on Saturday Morning in the Park

The public is invited to come participate in a kids painting activity in the state park on Saturday morning. A local artist will be demonstrating and leading a fun outdoor painting activity.

2024 Dates and Locations

Curt Gowdy State Park: June 19-23

Early Bird Registration for Curt Gowdy is open until May 31, 2024

Register for Curt Gowdy Here


Curt Gowdy is located just 24 miles west of Cheyenne, Wyoming and 24 miles east of Laramie, Wyoming. Take State Route 210 (Happy Jack Road) to County Road 106 .

Curt Gowdy State Park has seven sections of richly varied landscape, flora and fauna decorate the foothills of the Laramie Mountains. The beautiful attractions within Curt Gowdy State Park are near the crossroads of two major interstates, I-80 and I-25. There are three reservoirs, Granite, Crystal and North Crow. Granite offers excellent rainbow trout and kokanee salmon fishing as well as space for water sports. Crystal, the smallest of the reservoirs, has shoreline fishing for brown trout, rainbow trout and kokanee salmon.

ON-SITE CAMPING AT CURT GOWDY: A select number of campsites have been set aside at Curt Gowdy State Park for registered artists. Sites must be reserved in advance by calling the Park at 307-632-7946 and mentioning the Plein Air in the Parks event. Overnight and day use fees apply. Deadline to reserve these campsites is June 16, 2024.

For information about Cheyenne, visit the Visit Cheyenne website. Visit the Curt Gowdy State Park website for information about things to do and see, amenities, and maps.

Hot Springs State Park: September 11-15

Early Bird Registration for Hot Springs is open until August 31, 2024

Register for Hot Springs Here


Over colorful terraces along the Bighorn River at Thermopolis flows water from mineral hot springs. More than 1.8 million gallons flow over the terrace every 24 hours at a constant temperature of 128 degrees Fahrenheit. The park has a free bath house where the water is maintained at 104 degrees for therapeutic bathing. Hot Springs has 6.2 miles of universally accessible trails and hiking trails. It is a full-service park with comfort stations, a volksmarch trail, fishing, and a boat ramp. One of the reservable group picnic shelters is located here. Hot Springs is a day-use park.

The Hot Springs State Park bison herd is the central herd for the Wyoming State Parks. During the late fall and winter months, the park bison are fed a daily supplement to insure good health. This feeding usually occurs at 8:30 a.m., giving the off-season visitor the unique opportunity to view the “Monarch of the Plains,” up close. Please remember that bison should be viewed ONLY while you remain in your vehicle.

The suspension foot bridge across the Bighorn River is commonly called “The Swinging Bridge.” The bridge offers a unique vantage point from which to view the Bighorn River and mineral terrace. Hot Springs State Park has long been known for its beautiful summer flower gardens. Make a point to bring your camera with you and capture the exciting splash of color all summer long.

LODGING/CAMPING NEAR HOT SPRINGS: Hot Springs State Park does not allow camping within the park. There is currently a room block reserved at Hot Springs Hotel for a discounted rate of $125/night. If you’d like to reserve one of those rooms, please call 307-864-3131 ext. 1 today. A limited number of rooms are available. A list of other lodging options in the area can be found here and camping options here.

For information about Thermopolis, visit the Thermopolis website. Visit the Hot Springs State Park website for information about things to do and see, amenities, and maps.

How the Event and Contest Works


Registration includes up to two entries in the judged competition. Mediums may include but are not limited to oil, acrylic, watercolor, pastel, and/or graphite.

  • Early Bird – $35
  • Adult Division (Regular and Walk Up) – $50
  • College Student (must present valid ID at stamp-in) – $15
  • Junior Divisions – $5
    • Teen Division (ages 13-18)
    • Youth Division (age 12 and under)

Registration includes a waived day use fee to access to the participating state park for the participating artist and one guest. You will be given an ID Badge at stamp-in. ID badge must be worn for admission and access throughout the weekend. The general public will need to pay the daily access fee to the State Park. No admission will be charged to attend the show and sale at the visitor’s center on Sunday between 1 and 3 pm.


More information to follow


Artwork to be included in the show and sale must be dropped off and checked in with completed information (see #7 below) between 3 and 5 pm on Saturday or between 9 and 10 am on Sunday. Any artwork not received by 10 am on Sunday will not be judged and will not be included in the sale.

Rules and Guidelines

Rules and Guidelines


  • Authentication stamp must be visible on the back of artwork. The entire back of the entry must be visible at submission.
  • Artists may work on site between sunrise and sundown.
  • Entries must be created in the pure intent of outdoor, on location, plein air painting. At least 75% of the painting must be produced outdoors in the spirit of plein air within the bounds of Curt Gowdy State Park.
  • Entries produced using manipulated photographic processes, computer enhanced imagery or other non-plein air means will not be accepted.
  • Registered artists and event attendees agree to respect public lands and historic structures by following the use regulations and any verbal, written or posted rules of the various land management agencies (i.e. obtaining necessary use permits, staying on designated roads and trails, etc.).
  • Up to two (2) stamped entries may be entered into the competition.
  • Artist name, artwork title, medium, age (for youth divisions), and date should be legibly printed on the back of submitted artwork or on a label affixed to the back.
  • The maximum size of the artwork, including framing, should not exceed 30” X 36.”
  • All entries must have wire, hanging hardware, or another means to secure the work for display. Framing may be desired for the sale, but will not be taken into the judges’ consideration. It is highly recommended that pastels, drawings, watercolors, and other works on paper be presented under a mat or glass for their protection.
  • Artists agree to allow Arts in the Parks (State of Wyoming Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources) permission to use images of their artwork for educational, promotional, and other non-sales purposes.
  • Registrants (or parents/guardians) will be asked to sign a photo release form at stamp in.


Youth and Teen Divisions can begin working September 1st and can drop off work to be included in the show and sale at the Visitor Center at any time throughout the month prior to the drop off deadline on September 17. Registration fees are due at sign up or drop off. All other rules and guidelines still apply.


Artwork entered into the competition may be listed for sale at the reception and award ceremony. During the reception, artists can sell up to 3 additional works created during the event but not entered in the competition. Artwork need not be framed. Sales are processed by the staff during the event.

A 25% commission will be retained. This includes any sale of artwork generated during the plein air competition, including direct sales facilitated by artists. 15% of the commission will be donated to the Cheyenne Artist Guild. 10% of the commission will be put toward the Plein Air in the Parks program for future events.

Cash prizes and checks for the sale of artwork are mailed after the event.


Judging will be done anonymously. During judging, participating artists and the public will not be permitted into the Visitor Center where work is displayed. The judging panel is comprised of artists or those with an arts background, representatives from the community, and individuals familiar with Curt Gowdy State Park. Checks for cash award prizes will be mailed after the event. The below cash awards will be given.

  • Best of Show Cash Award – $1,000.00
  • 2nd – $500.00
  • 3rd – $250.00
  • People’s Choice Award – $250.00

Junior Division Awards

  • Youth (12 and under category and Teen 13 to 18 category to be judged separately)
    • 1st Place – $50 cash award
    • 2nd Place – $35 cash award
    • 3rd Place – $20 cash award