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Plein Air Festival Returns to Wayne Art Center

The focus is on local landscapes at the 5th annual festival.

Beginning Tuesday,  May 17th and running until May 21, the Wayne Art Center will be hosting 32 artists from around the country for its 5th annual Plein Air Festival. Artists will travel from as far as Tennessee and Indiana to paint local landscapes.

Plein Air, which means “in the open air,” originated in Laguna Beach, California about fifteen years ago. In Plein Air festivals, artists have two to four days to paint as many on location landscapes as they can. Each painting takes two to three hours—a nonnegotiable time frame, since an artist can only paint a scene for as long as the light stays the same. 

This year, artists will spend the first two days painting within a 15-mile radius of Wayne. The next day they will expand to Philadelphia, and on the final day, they will all paint in central Wayne. When they finish painting in Wayne at 1 p.m. on Saturday, they bring the paintings (some still wet, all already framed) to the Wayne Art Center.

“It’s like a triathlon of painting,” said Patti Hallowell, program coordinator at the Wayne Art Center. “It’s very rich and stimulating.”

Artists are required to produce at least two paintings, with some finishing with as many as fifteen. All in all, the Art Center hangs about 200 paintings. This is one of its two major fundraisers and one of the top selling exhibitions. Karen Louise Fay, director of special programs, cites familiarity and accessibility as the reason for the exhibit’s popularity. “People understand the subject matter,” she said.

The paintings, including those that have been sold, will be on display for the public until June 24 at the Davenport Gallery.

Although producing a large volume of paintings in a short time can be exhausting, many artists are trained in Plein Air techniques.

“These are people who seek challenge,” said Hallowell. Many painters enjoy the experience of painting from nature, where they can “hear the birds chirping.” Artists have their own styles and color palettes, and as Fay pointed out, even “clouds are interpreted differently.”

Local artist and participant Valerie Craig said that there is a “great spirit and energy” surrounding the festival. Craig, who helped found the festival, has painted at Androssan Farm and the Daylesford train station. Although she has painted since she was eight, Craig was originally a nurse.

The artists were chosen from an applicant pool of 80 by Billyo O’Donnell. O’Donnell, a lifelong resident of Missouri, is a nationally recognized landscape painter. His other duties in the festival include deciding on the recipients of $4,000 of prize money and conducting a Plein Air demo and a Plein Air painting workshop. 

The festival is made possible by contributions of business sponsors, patrons, and 43 committee members. The committee is chaired by Barbara Berry.

In an area where trees line the sides of the road and parks are plentiful, the community often overlooks the area’s landscapes and greenery. The Plein Air festival draws attention back to Radnor’s surroundings. “It highlights the beauty of the area,” Craig said of why she loves the festival. “I feel like a guest in my own hometown.”

For more information, visit waynepleinair.com.

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