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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Evanston Made hosts second annual Plein Air Art Festival

Joshua Kuruvilla/The Daily Northwestern
Jianqiao Luan, a top-three finisher in Sunday’s competition, posing with the patron who purchased his prize-winning artwork. The painting was also voted as the community favorite by attendees.

Evanston Made, in collaboration with numerous local businesses, hosted the second Evanston Plein Air Art Festival over the past week at various locations around the city.

Over the past week, artists around the country flocked to Evanston from Missouri to Texas to compete in the festival. Plein air competitions are timed events where participants use a technique to take advantage of natural light and shifting landscapes. Plein air painting takes artists out of the confines of an isolated studio and immerses them in the real world, providing a unique experience. 

Lisa Degliantoni, founder and co-director of Evanston Made, said she has been working to create a cohesive art scene in Evanston. When painter and Evanston Made member Mark Cleveland suggested an Evanston plein air competition, Degliantoni recognized the value of bringing an annual arts competition to the city. 

Evanston is the perfect place for an outdoor painting competition, according to Degliantoni. 

“We have incredible natural and built environments,” Degliantoni said. “Our architecture is stunning.” 

Throughout this past week, “Paint Outs” offered painters a new location and deadline to craft pieces that would be submitted for judging at the end of the day. 

Despite battling challenging weather conditions, participants braved the rainy weather to continue putting strokes to the canvas. Maria Delton, a watercolor artist from Chicago who has been involved with art her whole life, from studying painting at Northwestern to being an art director at an advertising agency, notes the inherent environmental challenges with plein air painting. 

“A bug might drop in my paint. It kind of smells like pee here. Wind. Sun,” she said. 

Every day, painters could be spotted all over downtown Evanston capturing a unique snapshot of the city. Interested observers could wander around the selected location for the day and watch the artists throughout their entire process.

The festival attracted a diverse range of participants from lifelong artists to beginners, and even those who just wanted to paint for fun. Joe Patterson, an artist from Kansas City, works as an engineer but began taking painting classes 15 months ago. Patterson said he finds the task-oriented nature of plein air painting “incredibly appealing.” 

“You put something in front of me, I’m gonna knock it out of the park,” Patterson said. 

The event culminated Sunday with a gallery followed by a judging. Renowned plein air painter Nancie King Mertz judged the event, with Cynthia Dybksy receiving the grand prize. Attendees had the opportunity to admire different painting styles, engage with the artists themselves, and even purchase artwork. 

Anushka Dasgupta, a Northwestern graduate student studying materials science, passed by the culminating event Sunday before stopping to take a look around. She mentioned she was surprised by the sheer amount of artists who work in the Evanston area. 

Mark Lowry, the director of operations and administration of Rotary International, said he recognizes the need of supporting the arts in Evanston and exposing residents to Rotary International, an organization that has called Evanston home since the 1950s. By lending the Rotary International space for the event Sunday, Lowry said it was their opportunity to be a “good neighbor” and bring awareness to an important cause.

The Evanston Plein Air Art Festival is just in its second year, and there is plenty of room for growth, according to Degliantoni.

“[We] want to prove that arts can be an economic driver, that Evanston can be an arts destination, but we are the ones who are going to have to make that happen,” Degliantoni said.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @JoshuaKuru53737

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