Competition draws painters to North Bennington

Wednesday September 1, 2010


NORTH BENNINGTON -- The painters are coming.

The inaugural North Bennington Plein Air Competition begins Wednesday, Sept. 8, and there will be something for everyone.

"Everything is set and we’re working on the details now," said Bob Lowary, co-organizer of the outdoor painting competition with his wife, Nan. "I think it’s going very well. Obviously, Nan and I can’t predict ... how many people will turn out and how much art there will be, but some good artists were invited, and accepted. They will be out all over the place!" Lowary said.

"I also think the quick-draw at Park-McCullough House will be one of the better and more fun events, for local artists and other artists," he said. "I encourage people to sign up! I have a feeling, there are a lot of people who say they’re going to paint but haven’t registered. We’d love to have people register early, but you can register at the door." Registration for the quick-draw is $10.

Patricia Gordon Michael, executive director at Park-McCullough, adds that for the quick-draw, painters "can only paint what you can see on Park-McCullough, or from Park-McCullough." And to add yet more elements to the view, she said, there will be a free exhibit of vintage cars on the site from noon to 6 p.m. that day.

Lowary said new elements have been added to the weekend’s activities, especially a children’s quick-draw Saturday morning, Sept. 11, from 10 a.m. to noon. Participation in that event will be free, and a painting supply store in Albany, N.Y. has offered up a gift certificate as a prize.

The prizes for the adults are pretty spiffy, too. The winner of the Invitational was already slated to receive $500 in cash. That painter is now also eligible for a small show in the lobby of the Bennington Center for the Arts, donated by the Laumeisters, Lowary said.

The quick-draw prizes were originally slated as $250 for the winner, $150 for second place, $100 for third, a $100 gift certificate to Pangaea for the winner of the People’s Choice award and a $50 gift certificate to Pangaea for the honorable mention (under-18) winner. Quick-draw winners will now have their work displayed for a showing at the Bennington Museum.

"In each case, it’s an additional prize, an opportunity to show their art," Lowary said.

The overall invitational will be juried by James Gurney, a well-known Hudson Valley plein air artist, perhaps best known for his creation of the "Dinotopia" series of books, though he has also created more than 70 illustrated book covers. He has worked on assignment as a National Geographic artist and has illustrated 17 United States postage stamps.

North Bennington’s own Stella Ehrich, another plein air artist, will judge the quick-draw. Ehrich has taught at Williams College, Bennington College, Brookhaven College (Dallas, Texas), Community College of Vermont, Lyme Academy College of Art, and in Plein-Air Painting Workshops in Tuscany, Italy. Her work has been shown in more than 21 solo exhibitions and more than 50 group exhibitions and she is represented in seven public art collections as of this writing.

The information checkpoint throughout the event will be the North Bennington train station, so anyone wishing to know where a particular painter is working at any given time can find out at the station, then go and interact with the artist.

"This is the whole point, why you do art education," Gordon Michael said. "It’s so people don’t think art is something you hang on a wall, but you can’t do. These are real people, this is their life’s work," and their presence proves that everyday people can, in fact, produce art.

Scheduled events will be taking place at specific points, too.

At 4 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 9, Gurney will present a talk titled "Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn’t Exist," in the Carriage Barn at Park-McCullough, 1 Park St., North Bennington. Using Gurney’s award-winning series, "Dinotopia," as model and example, this digital slide presentation examines the practical methods that artists use to translate an imaginative scene into a compellingly realistic image. The presentation is for a general audience and is especially suitable for children and young adults. Book signing will follow. Admission is free. Reservations are not required but are recommended. For information, call 802-442-5441.

At 8 p.m. that evening, Gurney will present "Pioneers Of Plein Air," a digital slide presentation that starts by taking a look at how plein air painting got its start in the Hudson River valley of New York state. Gurney then brings the story to the modern day, discussing materials and methods of both painting and dry-media sketching. The presentation is suitable for a general audience and is of special interest to artists and art lovers. Book signing will follow. Admission is free. An informal reception will follow the talk. For additional information, call 802-442-5441.

Horse-drawn wagon rides will be available Friday, Sept. 10 from 3-6 p.m. at the Taraden Barn.

Stella Ehrich will lecture on plein air painting, Friday, at a time to be determined. That night, the Vermont Arts Exchange hosts "The Prescriptions" at 7:30 p.m., $12 at the door, and Kevin’s Sports Pub offers live music beginning at 9:30 p.m.

On Saturday, the Quick-Draw Art Exhibition and Sale will be from 4:30-6:30 in the Carriage Barn at Park-McCullough, during which prizes will be awarded.

From 7-10 p.m., the Taraden Media Barn hosts the preview party and sale for invited artists and sponsors, open to the public for $25 - which cost will be applied to the price of any painting the person might choose to buy.

Sunday from 1-5 p.m., the Taraden barn hosts the free public exhibition and sale, with prizes announced at about 2 p.m., snacks and a cash bar.

For directions, additional information and a schedule of events, visit the event website at or call 802-733-6570.


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