Peak paint event honors Pike, Western artists

       Artists big and small took their best brush strokes of Pikes Peak June 3 at the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center in an event called “Paint the Peak for Pike.”
       Taking advantage of the center's location facing the peak through the Gateway Rocks, six painters from the Colorado Springs Plein Air Painters group set up easels by the building's front door or on its balcony. They were joined over a four-hour period by numerous children using center-provided watercolors.
       Melissa Walker, the center's lead interpreter, said about 65 people painted during the event. Plein Air artists set up easels on the balcony as well outside the ground- floor entrance.
       Paint the Peak for Pike was a tie-in with the the 200-year commemoration of Zebulon Pike's expedition to this region, according to Debbie Bartos of Plein Air. Pike kept a journal and made sketches, but had the misfortune of being captured by the Spanish. “Lewis and Clark had journals, and they had drawings and maps,” she said. “Pike had his confiscated by the Spanish, and recreated his journal from memory until it was discovered after his death. So we were painting the Peak for Pike because he didn't get the opportunity.”
       In addition, the painting day recognizes the contribution artists made in telling the story of the West in general, said Bartos, who serves as a volunteer at the Visitor Center. She described the 1800s artists as the “first interpreters of the West,” whose pictures helped people back East visualize what was truly out here.

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