Can art save Roan Plateau? |

Can art save Roan Plateau?

Phillip Yates
Glenwood Springs Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Don Barnes wants to capture what the Roan Plateau looks like today. Not what it might be in the future.

And he is seeking the help of artists, photographers and painters, to do that.

On Facebook and other online sites, Barnes is working to organize the Roan Plateau Roundup, an effort to bring together dozens of artists to photograph and paint what federal lands on the Roan Plateau look like before they may be affected by natural gas development, he said.

“As an artist, my concern is to capture the natural beauty that is there now and to make sure we get it done in an artistic way,” said Barnes, a Denver artist.

The future of federal leases on the Roan Plateau has been the center of controversy for the last several years. Environmental groups have long criticized the Bureau of Land Management’s plan for development of the western Colorado landmark. Last week, those groups launched a lawsuit to block the leasing of 55,000 acres in the area and to set aside the agency’s management plan for the area.

U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., and Colo. Gov. Bill Ritter, a Democrat, have also criticized the agency for ignoring the state’s proposals for development in the area.

However, the agency has said its plan includes several protections, such as limiting development of the area at any given time to 350 acres.

Barnes said the Roundup is not intended as a one-day event ” which was the original idea ” but a long-term project that would bring in artists from the Front Range and in Garfield County to create works of art. Avoiding a single event would also allow artists to create their work during the different seasons of the year, he said.

The Roan Plateau Roundup is just in its beginning phases, admitted Barnes, but he said that three artists have already committed to the project. He said he is putting the word out about the project right away so artists can learn about the effort.

“There have been several very well-known regional artists who have expressed interest,” Barnes said.

The initial idea was to bring all the completed art work together for a gallery show at a location in the area, but that idea has evolved into creating a website to show and sell all the artwork that is created, Barnes said. He is also working to put together a show in Denver, but that depends on how many artists contribute to the project.

“If we get 20 artists, then it becomes a show,” he said.

Barnes said he is working to create the project because “it’s hard for me to get onboard” with the development plan for the area.

“It is a very special area,” Barnes said. “I know what Rifle looks like. Rifle doesn’t look anything like it did 20 years ago.”.

Brian Bernhardt, community organizer for the Campaign to Save the Roan Plateau, said he thought it was great that artists are interested in traveling to the area to capture some of the beauty of the Roan Plateau.

“It is really a unique place in Colorado and hasn’t got a lot of attention from artists,” Bernhardt said. “Artists have a way of capturing natural beauty in a way sometimes photographs don’t. I can picture some really nice paintings.”

Bernhardt said he hoped the paintings serve less as a memorial of the area and more of a tribute that might help provide an impetus for “protections of the area.”

“I hope the paintings inspire others who haven’t been up there to appreciate what is really there,” Bernhardt said.

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