North Carolina Plein Air Art Festival

Mark Your Calendars for May 14-21, 2023

The 3rd Annual North Carolina Plein Air Art Festival in New Bern begins Sunday, May 14, and continues through Sunday, May 21. The eight-day Festival showcases 35 nationally and globally acclaimed plein air artists, including 15 newly juried painters, joining 20 award winners and top performers from 2022’s Festival.

“The term ‘plein air’ is French and means ‘open air’,” said Kippy Hammond, Festival organizer. “Plein air painting can be traced back to Impressionist artists such as Monet, Renoir, and Degas – painting outdoors and capturing fleeting moments of light, color, atmosphere, and the mood of a scene, rather than detailed representations.”

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Outdoor Venues

Painting venues include Historic New Bern, the first capital of North Carolina; Beaufort, the home of the North Carolina Maritime Museum; and Oriental, the sailing capital of North Carolina. In addition, artists will choose more sites and landscapes in Craven, Carteret, and Pamlico Counties.

Festival headquarters, including demonstrations, workshops, art displays, and sales, will be based at Historic New Bern’s Farmers Market, less than two blocks from Tryon Palace. In addition, pop-up exhibits and art sales will happen in Beaufort and Oriental, with location details, dates, and times on the NC Plein Air New Bern website. All activities are free except the workshops, Saturday’s awards celebration, and a modest fee for artists to enter the Quick Paint competition (no charge for spectators).

Be Part of Art

According to Hammond, artists will create approximately 400 paintings featuring local scenes, subjects, and vistas, in a friendly competition to win the Best of Show Koffenberger Award, plus other prominent awards and recognition.

Festival attendees will have numerous opportunities to meet and talk with the artists, including using a real-time cell phone app showing the locations of featured painters each day. In addition, youth and adult amateur artists can meet with the pros and compete for ribbons and cash awards in the annual Quick Paint competition.

Workshops include award-winning plein air artists Suzie Baker of Texas, past president of the Oil Painters of America, and James Richards of Georgia, regarded as one of the top oil painters in the nation. Both are renowned American Impressionist painters and in-demand instructors conducting workshops across the United States and Europe.

“Plein air is a popular form of art and recreational activity influenced by the rise in global tourism,” said Hammond. “Artists are interested in capturing the essence of a particular place and time and celebrating the world’s beauty. Plein air painters typically work in oils, watercolors, or pastels.”


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