Plein Air-Easton Rides Momentum Going Into 10th Year

2013 Grand Prize Winner (c) Ted Mueller Photography 3807 (400 x 267)Plein Air–Easton! continues to ride the momentum of mounting success as the event heads toward its 10th anniversary in 2014. In nine years, Plein Air–Easton! has gone from being one of a few East Coast plein air festivals to becoming the largest and most prestigious among dozens of competitions across the United States. Considered by artists and collectors to be the gold standard, Plein Air–Easton! is shaping the modern plein air movement. Paintings created during this event are of the highest quality and have historical significance because they were created during this important period.

At this year’s awards presentation, Plein Air–Easton! Competition Judge Don Demers described Plein Air–Easton! as “the singular, preeminent plein air event in the country.” He went on to say, “I was just overwhelmed by the artwork created this week. This is truly the finest plein air show I have ever seen.”

Art sales during this year’s 9th Annual Plein Air–Easton! Competition & Arts Festival were stronger than ever. The average price per painting was up, and more paintings than ever—313 in all—sold in only 2½ days. Total sales exceeded $325,000, an increase of more than 20% over 2012 figures.

Al Bond, executive director of the Avalon Foundation, which produces the event, described the enthusiastic atmosphere and buying frenzy at the Collectors’ Preview Party. “The work of the competition painters was very well received,” Bond said. “For 90 minutes, purchases occurred at the rate of one painting every 45 seconds!”

The result was record breaking sales and an intense excitement that characterized the whole weekend in an event where exhilaration and success go way beyond the bottom line. Unparalleled community support and comprehensive efforts by event organizers make this event unique. The enthusiasm of artists, volunteers, event staff, community organizations, and local businesses generates an overall positive vibe that is contagious and enduring. This supportive, upbeat atmosphere makes artists feel extremely welcomed, and attracts more visitors to the event. More than 10,000 people attended last July to engage in the creative process and purchase some of the best representational art in the world.

The unprecedented quality of the art created at Plein Air–Easton! gives it an inherent value. Yet, artwork purchased at Plein Air–Easton! has worth that goes beyond a beautiful painting on the wall. As Easton continues to be the “center of gravity” of the plein air realm, like the Hudson Valley in the nineteenth century and the California Coast in the early twentieth century, artwork created here has a unique historical context and growing value in the world of art collecting. Collectors who purchase paintings during Plein Air–Easton! not only own fine art they can enjoy for a lifetime, but paintings with added value because they have been purchased on the ground floor of this significant era.

Although hundreds of artists apply to this juried competition every year, only 58 of the very best painters from around the world are selected to compete. A buzz is spreading amongst artists across the country that Easton is plein air’s most reputable, career-boosting competition. A month after artists have departed from Plein Air–Easton! 2013, they are still talking, blogging, and posting about the experience. This networking draws more high-caliber artists to Easton and elevates the overall enthusiasm and excellence of the event.

In a recent interview on WCEI radio, Jessica Rogers, general manager of the Avalon Foundation summarized this synergy. “Plein Air-Easton! is the largest and most prestigious outdoor painting competition in the United States by almost a third,” Rogers reported. “The reason Plein Air–Easton! has become recognized nationally is really because of this community. Those of us who live here may think that the kindness we see is normal in the world, but it’s really not. This is such a special place. Between 250 volunteers, host families, businesses, and monetary supporters who have stepped up and really embraced Plein Air–Easton!, it is really the warm hearts of the people here that have made this festival so popular. It’s just not the same elsewhere!”

Al Bond, executive director of the Avalon Foundation, added, “Artists from across the United States and members of the community at large continue to support this event, and want to have it happen here. The public is a huge part of our success.”

Plans are already underway as Plein Air–Easton! prepares for its 10th anniversary in 2014. The 10th Annual Plein Air–Easton! Competition and Arts Festival will take place July 12-20,2014, with possible pre-festival events beginning the week before. The public is invited to join this diamond celebration by volunteering, becoming a host family or by becoming a Friend of Plein Air-Easton!.

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 accredited museum venue for the competition exhibit.

Plein Air–Easton! is supported by various corporate, media, and community sponsors, including the Maryland State Arts Council, Talbot County Arts Council, Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, Star Democrat, and Attraction magazine. Donations from Friends of Plein Air–Easton! support the event while promoting conservation and tourism through the arts.

Plein Air–Easton! highlights are available on an extensive video blog available at www.pleinaireaston.com. For more information, galleries, to become a Friend of Plein Air–Easton! or to join the mailing list and blog, visit www.pleinaireaston.com, email info@pleinaireaston.com, or call the Plein Air–Easton! hotline at 410.822.7297.

In photo: Garin Baker (center) from New York, NY won the $5,000 Timothy Dills Memorial Grand Prize for “A Buck Twenty a Bushel.” Shown are Competition Judge Don Demers (left) and Avalon Foundation Executive Director Al Bond (right). Photo credit: Ted Mueller Photography