2021 Monuments and Canyons Plein Air Art Invitational
Sponsored by Family Health West
By John Lintott
The time has come, and we couldn’t be more excited. On September 26th through October 3rd, 22 artists from around the country will spend their days and evenings creating paintings of Colorado National Monument and its surrounding areas.
During this week you may see an artist or two painting off of Hwy 340, or along one of the many trails in the monument or the BLM areas nearby. Stop by and say hello!
This year, the public will have the opportunity to see the artists in action not only randomly during the week, but also at two designated group paint outs. On September 29th, from 8:30 am to 11 am the artists will gather at the Saddlehorn picnic area in Colorado National Monument, to paint the stunning views of Monument Canyon. Then on Thursday, September 30th, from 8:30 am to 11 am artists will gather at the Devil’s Canyon Trailhead in the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, and paint throughout the network of trails in that area. These two gatherings are a great opportunity for the public to come and see the artists in their process and to engage and ask questions.
At the end of the week, the artists will display the works they created at the Carlson Vineyard Tasting Room on Main Street in downtown Grand Junction. The exhibit begins Friday night from 5 pm to 8 pm for the member and sponsor preview night, and awards ceremony. Free admission for all sponsors and members of the CNMA. Non-members must purchase tickets for $30 (includes a Chinle level membership with the Colorado National Monument Association). This year there will be a cash bar with Carlson Vineyard wines (there will not be refreshments). It’s an exciting opportunity to be among the first to see these incredible artists’ work!
Then on Saturday from 10 am – 5 pm and Sunday from 10 am – 2 pm the exhibit will be open for free to the public. Note: on Saturday from 9 am – 10 am we will have a block of time for high-risk individuals to view the show, with the least number of people.
We are grateful to many of the people in this community that support the arts and support this show. They are the patrons that have made this show a success for now the 5th year. This year’s sponsors for the 2021 Monuments and Canyons Plein Air Invitational are Family Health West, Quick Temps, LLC, and Lithic Book Press. Thanks also to Enstroms, Junt’n Square Pizza, Loki, Eureka! Science Museum, and Carlson Vineyards.
To see the artists and examples of their work visit: www.coloradonma.org/plein-air/.
John Otto: Enthusiastic Eccentric of the Colorado National Monument
By Camille Jestrovich
Around 1906, Colorado National Monument was first marketed as a tourist destination by the town of Fruita
A booklet distributed by the Fruita Bureau of Information stated that if visitors to the area were looking for a day trip, “Monument Canon, Fruita Park, Devil’s Canyon, etc. all within two hours ride afford places of recreation and scenes of grandeur, rivaling The Garden of the God’s.” Photographs were shown with captions such as “Scenes from Monument Canon” and “Nature Freak Near Fruita ” describing the monument known as Kissing Couple (the word “canyon” was spelled “canon” until around 1911.) Otto’s national park proposition was formally approved by the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce in 1908. A Senate Bill to certify 17,000 acres to become “Monument National Park” was introduced by Senator Guggenheim in 1910.
A wood hauling business was started in the park by Otto during WWI
He aspired to finance the completion of his pet project, “The Union Road, from Grand Mesa to Grand Canyon” with the revenue raised in a wood hauling project. In a letter addressed to the Department of the Interior, he asked for permission to supply dead wood from the park to economically depressed Grand Valley residents in order to heat their homes. He felt that leaving the dead timber to rot was a waste of resources. Permits were issued for 50 cents a load for those inclined to haul their own wood out of the park.
This wood hauling business ran into several obstacles. One gentleman refused to comply with Otto’s regulations and hauled the wood home without a permit. John obtained a warrant, took along a sheriff, and ordered the man to pay up, which he did. Not all residents approved of the project, claiming it was “unamerican to make old timers” pay for wood taken from any public place. Once the National Park Service learned that he was making money off the wood business, they demanded that he send them every dime: $35.05.
When trying to choose a name for the park, the most accepted reference was “Monolithic National Park.”
Other possible choices were Otto’s National Park, Centennial Park, and Mile-High National Park. John, jokingly, announced in the Daily Sentinel that it should be called “Smith National Park” for it would bring in a multitude of visitors named “Smith.” Ultimately, Congressman Taylor’s wife recommended Colorado National Monument. Taylor thought that to be a fitting name in that he was in the process of renaming the Grand River the Colorado River.
Otto’s Trees of Life
While reading an article in the Mesa County Mail and Fruita Tribune, he discovered that the Queen of England had announced that citizens should plant more trees in order to beautify the countryside. John was inspired! He suggested creating an area on the Monument called the “Trees of Life” to provide additional beauty and shade to the area. These trees would include grapevines, Weeping Willow, evergreens, and apple trees.
In the spring of 1911, just after Arbor Day, John extended an invitation to the public to travel to Monument Canyon for the planting of apple trees near “Big Apple Spring.” Otto had converted small flows of spring water into catchments to benefit visitors and pack animals. Roughly 30 residents from Fruita attended the event. After the planting and naming ceremony, “Boys with proverbial tomato soup cans packed water from the pools to properly soak the soil around the roots.” The following year he planned to plant a pear, prune, peach, quince, and crab apple tree. “Then in the course of time, someone may come along and tell us that the National Monument Park is a modern Garden of Eden.”
Otto celebrated patriotic holidays with enthusiasm
In 1908, in observance of Thomas Jefferson’s birthday and to keep the community centered on the canyons, he lit a huge bonfire on the rim rocks. He announced, “I am going to pile up dry waste wood and set a match to it about 8 o’clock pm” in recognition of the author of the Declaration of Independence. The unusual spectacle was so well received that he decided to repeat it in observance for the Fourth of July. In Monument Canyon, he set 15 gigantic bonfires blazing in a line. Grand Junction spectators who viewed the display were dazzled by the sight of the glowing fires and Otto continued to produce them for several weeks.
In 1924, John Otto came up with the idea that a herd of big game should inhabit the monument
He convinced the Colorado Game and Fish Department to ship six young elk and succeeded in getting the local Elks Lodge to pay for transportation costs. After several years, however, the elk found their feeding grounds too sparse of vegetation and water and migrated to Pinon Mesa, where their offspring can still be found. Otto was not discouraged, however, and came up with the idea to start a bison herd. It was to be acquired by school children’s donations of buffalo nickels, the Odd Fellows, and others. In addition to the deer, elk, and bison, Otto aspired to add antelope and bighorn sheep to establish “Uncle Sam’s Ranch.” During the 1940s to 1970s, overgrazing persuaded park managers to repeatedly reduce the herd size and ultimately move the entire bison population. The last of the Colorado National Monument’s bison were relocated to Badlands National Park in 1983.
Otto’s deep empathy for his fellow man.
Fifty years after John Otto’s death in 1952, Michael O’Boyle, CNMA member, and Todd Overby, CNM’s Fee Supervisor, brought an impressive sandstone monument, purchased with contributed monies, to Yreka, California in order to place it on Otto’s grave. The celebration was attended by about 50 townspeople and 25 Grand Junction citizens who wished to pay their respects. Both O’Boyle and Overby tell of an encounter with an elderly gentleman named Earl Skinner who told an interesting story. Skinner worked at a local foundry and one day Otto came to his workplace with “quite a bit of gold” he had collected when panning. He asked the foundry to make a mold in the shape of a star in order to make stars for the Gold Star families who resided along the Klamath River. Another illustration of Otto’s compassion, in addition to his involvement with women’s suffrage and labor issues was, of course, his desire for all to enjoy his beloved Colorado National Monument by establishing trails and championing for a road through the monument.
In Al Look’s book, John Otto and the Colorado National Monument, Look, who knew Otto well, says that perhaps Otto was “far too advanced for all of us around here and his teachings were too deep for people to grasp.” And that, “In defeat he was more triumphant than in victory.”
This is the third John Otto article by Camille Jestrovich. Check out CNMA’s past newsletters for more on our park’s founder.
To learn more about John Otto’s captivating story, read “John Otto and the Colorado National Monument,” by Al Look, “John Otto of the Colorado National Monument,” by Alan J. Kania, and “John Otto: Trail and Trial,” by Alan J. Kania. Online, you can also read, “A Classic Western Quarrel: A History of the Road Controversy at Colorado National Monument,” by Lisa Schoch-Roberts. Also, a very engaging piece by one of CNMA’s sponsors, Seth Anderson of LOKI, entitled “John Otto-CNM Founder’s Bold Legacy.”
Flute Music in the Monument
By Johanna van Waveren
Visitors of Colorado National Monument might be staring into the salmon-colored canyons and hear the magical sound of a flute.
Some visitors might think they traveled back in time. Some may think that this special place is starting to have a funny effect on them. And still others may notice a gentleman positioned under a juniper tree playing a wooden flute while violet-green swallows dance and dip, flying nearby.
Greg Dillon has been coming up to the monument for two and a half years “to toot and talk.” He normally sits close to the visitor center and many passersby stop to enjoy the gentle music and often have a short chat with Greg since not only is Greg musically inclined, he also is very friendly. Greg says the reason he enjoys playing music at the monument is that he gets to talk with people from all over the world.
Greg also displays the beautiful flutes and you may be surprised to learn that he constructs these instruments of art and melody. He has been working with wood for approximately 75 years, but it’s only been 7 years since he began making flutes. He makes two-chamber, Plain Indian-style flutes that are simply gorgeous. They feature various woods, stones, and fetishes (or charms).
Greg plays the flute at the monument to connect with nature and visitors of the monument. The designs of his flutes can be traced to those of the Native Americans. Native peoples had their own reasons for playing flutes. Some of the reasons including frightening their enemy, dancing, and courting.
William Wroth in Ute Indian Arts and Culture wrote, “It was thought that only the young woman being courted could hear the heartfelt songs of the [flute] player or that only she alone would recognize the song of her suitor.” Doesn’t this sound romantic?
Flute music might accompany ceremony and dance which were important aspects of many Native American cultures including the Utes. Charles S. Marsh in People of the Shining Mountain mentions that “The Utes shared their great love for singing and dancing with all Indians. These deeply spiritual forms of human expression held especially important significance. The outpouring of human passions such as joy, hope, anger, and fear to be found in singing and dancing served the Indian… in his attempt to explain the meaning of life.”
So, please come to the visitor center and listen out for Greg’s harmonious flute sounds as they mix with the sound of wind through pinon pines and perhaps even the gentle buzzing of cicadas. Perhaps picnic nearby and close your eyes. Think back to a time when Native Americans inhabited this land. There was much less noise then, only the sounds of the environment occasionally mixed with music the native people created in harmony with the natural world that surrounded them.
Thanks to Greg for providing us with a reminder of the past, as well as a perfect soundtrack for our red rock canyons.
People of the Shining Mountains by Charles S. Marsh Pruett Publishing Company, 1982
Ute Indian Arts and Culture Edited by William Wroth, Taylor Museum of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 2000
There is so much more to this newsletter! To read the entire 2021 Fall newsletter, visit this link.