Plein Air festival planners hope you’ll rediscover Penn Valley Park

kirk-1Organizers of the first Plein Air Fest want to offer Midtowners a reason to rediscover Penn Valley Park.

On May 7 through 10, artists will gather at the park in an open-air painting competition. Plein air painting, a French term for painting outdoors, has been popular with artists since the mid-19th century. Several popular plain air festivals are held around the country and the Penn Valley Park Conservancy organizers are hoping that the festival will become their signature event.

“I consider this a golf tournament for artists,” festival chairman Kirk Peterson says.

In addition to attracting artists to discover the beauty of the park, he’s hoping the spectators who come to watch the painting will rediscover the park as well. And once they rediscover it, he hopes they’ll keep coming back.

Peterson sees the park frequently since his law office with the firm Berkowitz Oliver is just across the park. He wants more people to know that Penn Valley has improved in the past few years. Safety, signage and lighting have all been upgraded.

Penn Valley Park was built in 1893 under the direction of George Keller, part of city’s Park and Boulevard system. At the time, Penn Valley was a  ravine was occupied by 300 run-down houses. Kessler designed an artificial lake and three miles of roads through the area, intending the park to be restored to its “rugged picturesqueness.”

Today, the 175 acres include a lake, tennis courts, a skateboard park, softball fields, a dog park and fitness trail as well as Liberty Memorial and World War I museum.

“The park is a jewel but many people aren’t aware of it,” Peterson says.

The Plein Air Fest

Artists from across the country will gather for four-day painting event to compete for $4000 in prizes. They’ll start with blank canvas. After judges give them a location, they’ll have two hours to capture the scene. Spectators can watch on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The fest will conclude with a reception and auction to showcase the art at the at Buttonwood Art Space, 3031 Main, on Saturday, May 10. All benefits will go to the Penn Valley Park Conservancy.

Artists can also sign up for a three-day workshop led by 
renowned plein air artist Phil Starke.


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