The Red Rock Arts Festival in 2019. [Courtesy photo]

The annual Red Rock Arts Festival started years ago as a “plein air” painting competition, a style of landscape painting done outside. While the festival does still feature two plein air workshops and a five-day competition, it has now grown to include pop-up performances, a film competition, a chalk drawing competition, poetry reading, a songwriting workshop, and an all-day street festival. 

Kelley McInerney, the arts and special events director at the MARC, said this year, she wanted the festival to feel new. 

“Since most of our staff are new here, we started with looking at the history of the event—what it’s been in past years,” she said. “And we started asking ourselves, what’s the goal of the event? Who is it for? … We wanted to create a festival that really celebrated different mediums of art, encouraged participation, and really felt like something different was going on in Moab that weekend—you’d see things you don’t normally see.” 

The festival runs from Thursday, Oct. 6 to Sunday, Oct. 9, and all events are free to attend. 

The festival kicks off on Thursday with two workshops. The first is a poetry workshop led by Shari Zollinger (11:30 to 1:30 p.m. at the MARC, 111 E. 100 N.), which will prepare participants for a poetry reading on Sunday. The second is a songwriting workshop led by Moab local Brian Laidlaw, the songwriter for The Family Trade (5:30 p.m. at the KZMU radio station, 1734 Rocky Road). 

“In having workshops in advance of our events, we’re hoping that instead of being intimidated by going to a poetry reading, you can go to this workshop, learn some new things, and have that new confidence,” McInerney said. 

A natural dye workshop during the Red Rock Arts Festival in 2021. [MARC]

On Thursday night, there will be an Arts & Ag market at Swanny City Park (100 W. 400 N.) which will feature a number of pop-up artists: there will be a workshop led by Art Church, an organization that leads simple art projects with a focus on mindfulness and creativity; a performance by Sadie Staley, an aerial artist; and an interactive art-making booth led by Douglas Tolman, which asks the question, “Where are you?” Tolman’s booth will appear in different locations around town throughout the weekend.

The festival continues on Friday with a family-friendly pottery workshop led by Liz Ford, the owner of Desert Sun Ceramics (3 to 6 p.m. at Desert Sun Ceramics, 1320 US Hwy 191). Participants will choose a fall-themed clay sculpture project to create—like a pumpkin, witch hat, or spider web—which will then be kiln-fired and ready to take home later in the month. 

There will also be an interactive installation on Main St. all day Friday by artists Emily Arntsen and Sarah Lewiecki: the two created a wishing well, and invite passers-by to leave offerings. 

At night, the films created during the “Wild, Weird, Wacky Westerns” will be screened at Star Hall (7 p.m. at Star Hall, 159 E. Center St.). Attendees will be able to vote on the films to award prizes to the directors. 

On Saturday, the festival culminates during the chalk drawing competition, street fest, and Art Walk. The chalk drawing competition runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in front of the MARC and invites artists of all ages and skill levels. Voting will run from 2 to 4 p.m. to pick winners in two categories—kids and adults—and the winners will receive prizes from local businesses. Registration is $10 per person (visit 

The street fest runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. outside the MARC, along 100 N. There will be a number of artisan vendors, many local to Moab; food and drinks, with a beer garden run by 98 Center; plein air art created during the competition on display and for sale; and live music by the bands Lady Denim, The Family Trade, Over Under, and People in General. Street Fest attendees are also invited to join local artist Pete Apicella to create an “upcycled wand,” a large, colorful tower created with found materials that will be installed near the dog park. 

Saturday’s festivities end during the Art Walk (5 to 8 p.m.), the second to last walk of the year. During Art Walk, participants can visit a number of locations around Moab to interact with artists and explore local art, including Moonflower Co-op (39 E. 100 N.), which invites participants to explore the photographs of Max Haimowitz; and Gallery Moab (58 S. Main St.), which invites participants to explore the landscape paintings of Rick Kinateder and Antonio Savarese. 

On Sunday, the arts fest winds down with a poetry reading (6 to 8 p.m.) at Back of Beyond Books (83 N. Main St.). The poetry reading is titled “uncommon time,” and invites “authors of poetry and prose to respond with works that explore uncommon time/times in our lives,” according to the event description. Poets must submit work to by Oct. 3; the reading event itself is free to attend. There will also be an open mic at the end of the event. 

“This is a time for everybody to step back and do something fun, or do something for themselves,” McInerney said. “I’m excited about the whole thing … we’re trying to have a little bit of something for everyone.” 

A full list of events can be found at