2012 Plein Air–Easton! Stays High and Dry

For the first time in eight years, Plein Air–Easton! crowds traded in a sunhats for umbrellas as a torrential downpour soaked the Saturday Quick Draw. Notwithstanding the downpour and about 45 minutes of lost time (a significant amount in a paint-out that lasts a total of only two hours), more than 160 artists—most of them drenched—participated in the Quick Draw.

Despite the deluge, sales from the Quick Draw (including more than a few rain-splattered watercolor paintings) were higher than last year. By the end of the festival, sales at the Competition Exhibition at the Academy Art Museum totaled almost $217,000, up by more than 17% from last year, and total sales were higher overall, exceeded expectations and making 2012 the best year ever.

In addition, the Local Color Show, held at the Tidewater Inn and sponsored by the Working Artists Forum, sold 31 paintings for approximately $10,000.

In total, 315 paintings were sold during Plein Air–Easton!, 96 of those (almost $122,000) in one evening during the opening event, the Collectors’ Preview Party on July 20, during which Awards Judge Tim Newton announced this year’s winners. Extraordinarily, the same painting, “All Tucked In,” a nocturnal painting of the Hooper Strait Lighthouse by Rockville, MD artist Hiu Lai Chong, received both the Grand Prize and Artists’ Choice awards. The Grand Prize was presented by Ellen General on behalf of the Timothy Dills Memorial Award.

Sixty children (ages 5-12) participated in the free Children’s Quick Draw, sponsored by the Working Artists Forum and the Academy Art Museum. About 60 more young artists (age 25 and under) participated in Quick Draw: The Next Generation, an event especially geared toward encouraging the careers of up and coming artists. Besides having a lot of fun and the chance to win large cash prizes (a total of more than $3,000), these artists have the opportunity to meet and get advice from dozens of professional plein air painters.

“The way the community reacted to the rain shows the spirit of this event,” said Al Bond, executive director of the Avalon Foundation. “I saw lots of smiling faces under a sea of umbrellas on Saturday. One story really brought it home for me. Tommy Peter Roberts is a disabled, wheelchair-bound painter with the use of only one hand. He was working on a painting called ‘Spirit of Plein Air’ when the sky opened up. One of our volunteers, Maureen Golden, saw him struggling in the rain and held an umbrella so he could continue to work. We talk a lot about how the whole community comes together for Plein Air–Easton! and how this is the key to the event’s success, but this scene tells the story in an instant.”

Other Plein Air–Easton! highlights are available on an extensive video blog available at www.pleinaireaston.com.

Plein Air–Easton! is the work of the Avalon Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide diversified arts and educational programs that improve the quality of life in the Mid-Shore region. The Academy Art Museum is the museum venue for the competition exhibit. The event is supported by Friends of Plein Air–Easton!, the Talbot County Arts Council, and corporate, media, product, and community based sponsors. The 2012 festival was also supported by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Maryland Public Television, and Chesapeake Publishing.

Mark your calendars now for the 2013 Plein Air–Easton! Competition & Arts Festival to be held July 14-21, 2013, with possible pre-festival events beginning the week before.

For information, listing of winners, painting galleries, artist bios, or for information about becoming a Friend of Plein Air–Easton!, call 410.822.7297 or visit www.pleinaireaston.com.

In photo: Hiu Lai Chong (second from left) from Rockville, MD, won both the $5,000 Grand Prize and the Artists’ Choice award for her nocturnal painting of the Hooper Strait Lighthouse, “All Tucked In.” Shown (left to right) are Avalon Foundation Executive Director Al Bond, Hiu Lai Chong, Krystal Allen of PleinAir magazine, and Plein Air–Easton! volunteer Cindy Reed. Photo courtesy of Attraction magazine.

In photo: Volunteer Maureen Golden (center) provides handheld protection for Tommy Roberts (left) during the Plein Air–Easton! Quick Draw. Roberts is a wheelchair-bound disabled painter who has the use of only one hand. He was working on a painting called “Spirit of Plein Air” when Golden came to the rescue as a sudden cloudburst disrupted the event. Photo credit: Colleen Spencer Henderson