Who and what is NC Plein Air Art Festival in New Bern?


Creativity is as vital to the life of a community as it is to individuals and a community thrives when it embraces the creative efforts of its citizens and the organizations that support the arts.

Plein Air New Bern exists today due to the generosity of individuals who have given of their time, their services, and financial resources. All these generous “seeds” have allowed for the formation of one of the area’s most recent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations.

Our business model is simple:

  • We invite national artists to come and paint our community, live and in person.
  • The artists come at their own expense, and we provide lodging with hosts families, sales venues, and a team to sell the paintings created during the week.
  • Sales proceeds are split 60% for the artist, 40% for the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
  • The 40% pays to market the event and activities through a physical and an online gallery.
  • This 40% is split 50/50 with partnering venues and nonprofit associations of shared events

When the pandemic hit, all our plans since 2018 were turned upside down.  We faced May 2021 with no funds and no prize money, BUT we did have 20 nationally acclaimed artists who were still committed to come and paint if we could provide hosting.

With a roll of the dice, that is what we did and were rewarded with a rounding successful event. An angel donor came forward with $5,000 which we used for awards and after $40,000 in sales, we were able to pay-out $30,000 to our artists, cover all expenses and seed the pre-event expenses for 2022.

In 2022 we welcomed 35 feature artists, doubled sales, distributing over $50,000 to artists, instructors and associations.

2023 brought great sales and increased participation from all the communities with over 54 active volunteers. The sponsorship program was greatly successful with businesses pitching in to help hosts tourists and artists.  Along with $60,000 cash disbursements to artists, in-kind contributions covered gas cards, receptions, meals for artists and volunteers. With the addition of engaging a public relations consultant and a fresh interactive website, rebranding to North Carolina Plein Air Art Festival took a huge leap forward to becoming a major tourist attraction for Eastern Carolina.

Following the 2023 event,  the Outdoor Painter (digital news from Plein Air Magazine ran an article with the highlights of the event (click here to read).  Plein Air Magazine’s 2021 article “Against All Odds” began with a quote from Juror Nancy Tankersley, “The interesting thing about this event is that it happened at all.” There is truth to that statement, but it is also a hint of the possibilities of the future.

Our financial and organizational goals for 2024 are to raise funds for a permanent director/project manager position and to finalize a permanent board of directors to direct the organization going forward. Since our inception in 2018, our focus has been to build a self-sustaining fundraising organization for the visual arts serving Craven, Pamlico, Carteret counties, art associations, and artists of all levels, from students to professionals.

Sponsorship information explains how you or your company can Be Part of Art.

Most important of all….MARK YOUR CALENDAR  May 12-19 for Plein Air New Bern 2024 as we rebrand to North Carolina Plein Air Art Festival.

Come watch, come paint, come buy art!!
Sales Gallery opens May 12-19
421 S. Front Street, New Bern Farmers Market

Form 990 for the year ended 6/30/2022 has been filed with the IRS and a copy is available for review upon request.
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