Ten years ago, the founders of the annual outdoor art festival in Easton likely didn’t know that they were building the foundation of what would be one of the country’s finest art events. Yet, ten years later, Plein Air Easton is known as exactly that.
We begin to spy the painters around Talbot County each year in mid-July, popping up in the unlikeliest of settings – in the middle of a grain field, or perched next to a tombstone in a historic cemetery. Yesterday, one plein air painter was seen on a tiny bench at the edge of the busy intersection of Rt 33 and the by-pass – looking as if a sudden wind might blow her off into the marsh. Always willing to interact with the public, plein air painters are ambassadors of the art world, allowing everyday people to step up and watch them bring life to blank canvas. The festival captures this spirit of appreciation for the art form and for the culture that surrounds it.
On Monday evening, I had a chance to meet two Connecticut painters who rode out of the St. Michaels harbor to paint skipjacks at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum aboard Island Lady, Jake Flory’s handsome deadrise. Island Lady runs sightseeing charters and tours around local waters in Bay Hundred. On the boat, Len Mizerek and David Bareford set up their easels and began painting just as a large thunderstorm loomed large to the west. They took different approaches to starting the work in the 20 minutes before lightning and rain chased us off the water. Bareford began with the architecture of the painting, the long straight lines of the skipjack’s mast and the bulkhead. Mizerek started in with color right away, capturing emotion and spirit.
“Easton has the best Plein Air event, period” the two agreed. They should know. They’re both renowned lifelong artists who have painted in this tradition at events all over the country.
Plein Air Easton selects 58 carefully juried painters in total, and this year, they come from as far as Oregon, Washington, New Mexico and Canada, and as near as Easton and Trappe. Each painter selected represents the very best in the field. With almost $25,000 in prizes and opportunities to sell their work to hungry collectors, every painter in the event has a chance for a very successful weekend in Easton.
The festival continues through Sunday. It is headquartered at the Avalon Theatre, with speakers and demonstrations sprinkled throughout the community, from the Academy Art Museum to local shops and galleries. In its typical community-collaborative spirit, Rise Up Coffee has set up a pop-up cafe inside the Avalon Theatre. For the first time ever, the Theatre has been transformed into an information center and gallery, showing the work of all of the artists throughout the entire week.
There’s something for every art lover at the festival. From demonstrations and lectures to quick draw events in the heart of downtown, this week and weekend offer a continual stream of opportunities to get up close and personal to the art and artists. Organizers maintain an up to date map showing the painting locations of all 58 at all times.
The main events this weekend are the Quick Draw on Saturday from 10am – noon, with the exhibit and sale from noon – 2:00 pm. Last year, it was said that a painting was sold every 45 seconds during the sale. At 1:30 pm, the awards will be announced. Sunday’s Next Generation Quick Draw always attracts a crowd. Between 10:30 am and 2:30 pm, art will be created, shared, exhibited and sold on the street in downtown Easton.
For more information about the festival, head on into downtown Easton and immerse yourself – it’s one of our region’s most fun weekends and one of the nation’s best of its kind. If you’re an artist, bring $10 and step up to join in the fun. Stop by to congratulate the good people at the Avalon Foundation, because this too, like so many wonderful local events, is the work of the Avalon Foundation.
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