From the organizers:
Sunday, July 23rd marked the final day of the 19th Annual Plein Air Easton Art Festival and Competition in Maryland. A juried event organized by the Avalon Foundation, it was announced today that art sales exceeded $500,000 over the course of the 10-day festival.
“It felt like it might be a blip in data, fueled by pent-up demand post-pandemic,” said Avalon Foundation Chief Operating and Finance Officer Jessica Bellis. “We were uncertain if sales volumes of that level were going to be achievable again and in 2022 with sales of $463K, we felt like maybe the art buying market had stabilized again. This year we are proud to announce that Plein Air Easton sold $537K (451 paintings) during the festival and that this preliminary data does not include plein air works sold through our partner exhibition with the Working Artist Forum (Local Color) or artwork that we know sold through our wonderful galleries downtown Easton.”
Proceeds from Plein Air Easton support the artists, the Festival itself, and the work of the Avalon Foundation whose mission is to inspire, enrich, and connect diverse audiences through arts, educational, and cultural experiences inside the historic Avalon Theatre and throughout Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
This year’s juror was acclaimed plein air painter Nancy Tankersley, who was a founder of Plein Air Easton and a major force in its early success. The festival’s juror from one year becomes the judge the next, providing a new look each year, which results in a competitive and changing roster of competing painters. Tankersley was specifically chosen to serve as the judge for the festival’s 20th year in 2024.
Mother Nature also gave the festival a boost this year. The Quick Draw Competition, open to all ages and skill levels was held on Saturday, July 22. While known for its grueling and excessive heat, humidity, and dense crowds, this year temperatures remained in the low 80s with a gentle breeze. A total of 82 plein air paintings (all produced during the 2-hour quick draw) were sold directly off of their easels.
A week of painting in Talbot County kicked off with a canvas-stamping event on July 13th, where artists were given an orientation for the week ahead before setting out to find painting inspiration. Friday the 14th, downtown galleries and merchants celebrated the arrival of artists with specials, a shop-to-win raffle, live music, and a rendition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream as storm clouds rolled right past the heart of town.
Saturday, competition artists could be found at the party of the summer known as the Meet the Artists Party at the picturesque Gross Coate Farm. This event, for Friends of Plein Air Easton who support it through charitable giving, is a true celebration of art where easels dot the landscape of a private estate in Talbot County. Art collectors, supporters, and onlookers were ferried through gardens and throughout the grounds in golf carts to watch paintings progress before their eyes. The evening culminated in an exhibit and sale of the day’s work while the easy sounds of the Janet Paulsen Trio played in the background. For dinner, guests were presented with a gourmet picnic dinner.
Paint-outs in Oxford and Tilghman were held on July 16th and July 17th respectively, and are a way to engage neighboring towns. Paint Oxford experienced a deluge of water and found artists tucked in and under the eaves of workshops, garages, and boatyards. While the challenges of the day had a negative impact on sales and spirits that evening, the day of painting produced several of the paintings that ultimately won major competition awards.
The Tilghman Paint-out, by contrast, brought sunny skies, stunning artwork, and strong sales into the Wylder Hotel for an exhibit and sale on the evening of July 17th.
All week the exhibit in the PAE Headquarters was dynamic as new art flowed in and out. In addition to the exhibit of hundreds of paintings, the Headquarters was the place where visitors could enjoy artist demos, interviews, and discussions on topics related to art and beyond.
The 58 competition artists handed in two completed works each on July 20 to be considered by event judge Jove Wang, who focused on selecting the award winners from a spectacular body of combined work.
The Grand Prize: Timothy Dills Memorial Award (sponsored by Ellen Vatne) was awarded to Charles Newman for his painting “Toolin’ Around Again at Cutts and Case” and the honor of an award by their peers, the Artists’ Choice Award (sponsored by Hali and Scott Asplundh) was awarded to newcomer Martin Geiger for his painting “Reflected Storefront.”
On Saturday, July 22, the weather was untypically Easton-like with temps in the low 80s, blue skies and a summer breeze kept the mood light and fun while nearly 200 artists took to the streets for the Quick Draw Competition. Zufar Bikbov won First Place overall, Charlie Hunter won Best Alumni Painting and Chris Rapa won First Place in the non-competition artist category. Fun fact – at least two artists who were subsequently juried into the main competition have won awards in the Non-Competition Artist category at Plein Air Easton’s Quick Draw competition in recent years. Quick Draw Awards are sponsored by September First Partners.
Finally, on Sunday, July 23, the festival culminated with Small Painting Sunday (held in honor of Suzan Estelle Brice in celebration of a life well-lived and sponsored by Ellen Vatne and Denise & John Bode) and the Judge’s Talk, during which Wang explained his award choices, and bestowed the final round of Small Painting Sunday awards. Patrick Lee took home Small Painting Sunday First Place, followed by Qiang Huang, Bernard Dellario, Rhonda Ford, and Henry Coe with second, third, and honorable mentions respectively. The Judge’s Talk is available for viewing through our website www.pleinaireaston.com or Plein Air Easton’s YouTube page.
First, Second, and Third Places; Artists’ Choice; First Place Quick Draw; and the Alumni Quick Draw awards also come with the honor of an automatic invitation to the 20th Plein Air Easton competition, scheduled for July 12-21, 2024.
To view the Judge’s talk and the Collector’s Party, and to learn more, please visit pleinaireaston.com.