For most of the last 16 years, Plein Air Easton has been the largest and most prestigious outdoor painting competition in the nation. Annually, artists from across the globe hope to become one of the 58 juried artists who get to compete for prizes and art sales in the heat of July on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. It was all systems go on Plein Air Easton 2020 when the world was brought to a screeching halt this March with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Plein Air Easton is the work of the Avalon Foundation, whose sole purpose is to bring the community together socially celebrating events that are musical, cultural, and artistic. Operations have suffered in many ways, creating uncertain and stressful times for many of the stakeholders, and for the community at large. Individuals and businesses that have renewed their support of the Avalon Foundation and Plein Air Easton have been a saving grace during this existential threat to the Foundation’s work. Organizers have been determined to find ways to pivot Plein Air Easton programming so as to support artists, build community and try to ensure that the event will survive well into the future.
This year, Plein Air Easton will be radically different. It will rely on fewer artists, specifically, those who were juried into the 2020 competition, and find themselves able to safely travel to Easton this summer to participate. Instead of a festival and competition, Plein Air Easton 2020 will be a series of small, safe events, paint-outs and special opportunities to thank its supporters, the Friends of Plein Air. Artists and patrons will be spread throughout Talbot County to prevent crowds. At the final exhibition and show, held in an Easton facility in excess of 10,000 square feet, masks will be required. This area ensures that every safety precaution can be taken. Instead of the pressure and intensity of most years, Plein Air Easton’s competition artists will be able to explore, to paint at their own pace and to enjoy a schedule that provides peace and camaraderie with friends and community members.
As in years past, there will be plenty of ways to enjoy the festival from afar through streaming content on the Plein Air Easton website, YouTube and Facebook. For those who are members of vulnerable populations, Plein Air Easton can arrange for private times inside the gallery by appointment or even viewings of select paintings brought right to their doorstep (locals only).
This year’s schedule would not be possible without the support of the Friends of Plein Air, especially those longtime host-level sponsors Bill and Doris Neilsen, Ellen Vatne, Bruce Wiltse, and Bill Davenport. Further, the events themselves would not be possible without the innovation, willingness, flexibility and support from community partners who have truly stepped up to save the day, including Town of Easton, Tilghman Watermen’s Museum, Oxford Business Association, Oxford Community Center, Wylder Hotel, and the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. The final and key piece in making Plein Air Easton possible, came from the generosity of the Stoltz Family who provided a safe venue for our large exhibition.
Paintings produced in 2020 will stand as records of this truly historic year. Certified with a special stamp on the back as Plein Air Easton Pandemic Paintings, owning one will be an enduring symbol of your generosity and support of the arts’ community during a very challenging and uncertain time.
Saturday, July 11 – Meet the Artists Expedition
3-8 p.m., an exclusive benefit for Friends of Plein Air (map provided)
Rain Date: July 12
For years, Plein Air Easton’s Meet the Artists Dinner has been the party of the summer. Highlighting beautiful estates, allowing for quiet moments of exploration with old friends and laughter with new ones, the Meet the Artists Dinner has been an exciting way to kickstart a week of compelling competition. It is also an important way for the Avalon Foundation to show sincere appreciation to those who are the backbone of the festival’s success, the Friends of Plein Air.
While in so many ways Plein Air Easton will not be the same as it has been in years past, the gratitude felt toward its donors (the Friends of Plein Air) and collectors has never been greater, and their enduring support never more important. This year’s Meet the Artists Expedition, therefore, will be more special than ever.
Plein Air Easton’s Friends of Plein Air will be invited to enjoy a driving tour featuring some of Talbot County’s premier estates. Participating juried artists will be set up within the properties, producing work at sites that can be viewed either from one’s car or, for those comfortable doing so, by parking and exploring on foot. Enjoy a leisurely afternoon full of beautiful countryside, and artwork still in the moment of creation. Gourmet by the Bay will place a picnic dinner, including wine, in your trunk to be enjoyed as and where you choose.
Artists and Friends will be spaced such that both the beauty of the properties and the considerable talent of some of the best plein air painters worldwide can be appreciated. Artists will also have the opportunity to display additional paintings created in the last few months while nearly everyone was quarantined in their homes. Each of the paintings sold during Plein Air Easton will be certified as an official Plein Air Easton Pandemic Painting. All artwork will be available for sale on the spot, or through an evening of programming that Friends will be able to experience online.
This event is only open to current Friends of Plein Air Easton. If you have questions about this event or about becoming a Friend, contact Kimberly Stevens, Avalon Foundation Development Director, at 410-770-4637 or Kimberly@avalonfoundation.org or visit pleinaireaston.com and click the “Become a Friend of Plein Air!” button on the upper right side of the web page.
Sunday, July 12 – Relax & Explore
All Day – Talbot County
Plein Air Easton will reserve this day, should it be needed, as a rain date for the Meet the Artists Expedition. More likely, it will be a day on which participating painters may independently explore Talbot County at their own leisure. They will have a chance to sketch and paint for pleasure, and to plan their painting time over the next several busy days. Be on the lookout for them. Remember: all of their paintings are for sale.
Monday-Wednesday, July 13-15
All Day – Featured Artists Paint in Featured Places
Plein Air Easton artists will be divided amongst four locations: Easton, Tilghman, Oxford and St. Michaels, at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. They will be painting on their own schedules and capturing the landscape as it inspires them. Hoping to catch a specific painter? Check out the schedule to discover where each one is encouraged to paint.
Easton – The home and heart of Plein Air Easton and the Avalon Foundation, the town is as sophisticated as it is lively. Tour the freshly restored Art Deco Avalon Theatre, a world-class performing arts venue. Renowned art galleries and impeccably curated museums make Easton the heart of the Eastern Shore’s arts and culture scene. Easton draws international artists, musicians and cultural connoisseurs to a series of acclaimed festivals each year. And it’s a foodie town to boot, chock-full of hidden culinary gems. This art lovers’ retreat is rated among the Top Ten Best Small Towns and Top 100 Small Arts Communities in America. Opening Monday, July 13 be sure to visit the Plein Air Easton Exhibition Hall.
Oxford – Like an old-fashioned postcard, Oxford is picture-perfect. Oxford’s waterways bustle with the passing of yachts, sailboats, powerboats and its own Oxford-Bellevue Ferry (America’s oldest privately-owned ferry route, established in 1683). Take a stroll back in time as you navigate the tree-lined streets peppered with historic homes and picket fences, charming inns and taverns, and the Scottish Highland Creamery, a local treasure. It’s a quiet escape with water views around every turn.
Tilghman – A quintessential historic American working-waterfront village, Tilghman Island is just off the beaten path. Watermen reign, pristine landscapes abound, and crowds only exist at the annual seafood festivals and docking contests. Nestled between the Chesapeake Bay and the Choptank River, the island offers serene vacations marked by fishing, crabbing, boating and relaxation. This watermen’s territory brims with unmatched hospitality and is just the place to leave your stress behind while you sample the Chesapeake Bay’s best seafood.
Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, St. Michaels – The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum was once the site of a busy complex of seafood packing houses, docks, and workboats. Today, there are 35 buildings, 10 of which house exhibitions that are open to the public. Ten exhibition buildings trace the geological, social, and economic history of the Chesapeake Bay through the age of sail and the steamboat era to the advent of the gasoline- and diesel-powered engines. The Museum’s Howard Chappelle research library holds more than 10,000 volumes. The Museum’s collection of Chesapeake Bay watercraft is the largest in existence, numbering about 85 boats. Eleven of the collection’s largest vessels are on floating display at the Museum’s docks. The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is the only museum devoted to interpreting the entire maritime region of the Bay. The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum will offer special discounted $10 tickets for those wanting to explore the museum on the days when Plein Air Easton painters will be at work. The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is always free to its members.
Monday-Wednesday, July 13-15
4-8 p.m. – Nightly Community Exhibitions
After a day of painting, artists will have the opportunity to exhibit their fresh pieces in small pop-up exhibits right within the communities in which they were created. This will allow patrons who do not wish, or are not able, to travel to the Plein Air Easton Exhibition Hall the opportunity to view and to purchase the artwork that was freshly created in their neighborhoods.
Plein Air Easton Exhibition Hall, 218 North Washington Street
Oxford Community Center, 200 Oxford Road
Wylder Hotel, 21551 Chesapeake House Drive
Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, 213 North Talbot Street
Monday-Sunday, July 13-19
Daily, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Plein Air Easton Exhibition Hall
Plein Air Easton will transform over 10,000 square feet of retail space into the largest art exhibition on the Shore. Beginning on Monday, July 13 and expanding frequently as more paintings are added throughout the week, plan to make several passes through this special show. Plein Air Easton staff will carefully monitor the door, so expect easy social distancing in a very large indoor space with air conditioning and plenty of parking available. The exhibition will be fully complete on Thursday and will feature special appointment-only hours for donors (plan accordingly; email Kimberly@avalonfoundation.org for more details).
Artist Demonstrations & Live Streaming Events
Keep checking the Plein Air Easton website at www.pleinaireaston.com. Expect to see the addition of painting demonstrations across the county and the timing of Live Streaming content confirmed. Act fast if you see demonstrations offered, as space will be extremely limited to allow for appropriate social distancing and to act in accordance with all CDC guidance.