Augusta Plein Air Art Festival

Art is in the ‘Air’

16th Annual Augusta Plein Air Art Festival brings artists and art-lovers to the great outdoors in Missouri Wine Country

By Brett Auten

For artists and art lovers alike, the Greater Augusta Chamber of Commerce hosts the 16th Annual Augusta Plein Air Art Festival from April 18 through April 29.

Over 120 artists from 13 different states are anticipated to attend the event. Spread throughout the towns of Defiance, New Melle and Augusta will be artists trying their best to capture all that is scenic and inspiring; the rolling hills of wine country riding alongside the Missouri River, the bountiful farmland, saddled next to the Katy Trail and giving their interpretations of historic structures on their canvas.

For the art lovers, the Augusta Plein Air Art Festival is especially unique in that the public is invited to observe art being created right before their eyes each day at events hosted by local businesses and neighboring communities.

“What a better way to start the spring,” Kathryn Kessler, Chairman Augusta Plein Air Art Festival, said. “You get outdoors and have a leisurely day appreciating culture. (The festival) is a unique opportunity to step behind the canvas and watch an artist’s eye in the moment and see something that maybe you see every day – or take for granted – evolve and unfold into a work of art.”

Plein Air, meaning “in the open air,” is a form of art created outdoors. According to Kessler, Plein Air goes back to 19th century Europe and it’s when an artist listens to their senses, paying particular attention to the light. Focusing on the scenery around them, they listen to the sounds, take in the atmosphere, and feel the climate, which inspires them to express their vision on canvas.

For the artists, the festival is open to all levels. The Augusta Plein Air Art Festival provides them with the opportunity to expand their markets, to enhance their skills with on-site workshops, and to receive recognition for their art, all while experiencing Missouri Wine Country in the company of other artists, several of whom are nationally recognized.

St. Charles County artist Rhonda Pepmiller has participated all 16 years in the festival and has won awards in acrylic and pastel over the years. Pepmiller enjoys both the challenges and the rewards that come from participating in a Plein Air Art Festival.

“I believe that (a plein air artist) is motivated to feel the environment and that they put more feeling in an open-air environment as opposed to looking at a picture,” Pepmiller said. “Those feelings come across in the paintings and that is why it is so special.”

Creating art in front of an audience offers its brand of obstacles.

“You are outside so it can be raining or windy and your painting blows off and ends up upside down in the gravel,” Pepmiller said. “You do have to be willing to answer a few questions and be able to do a couple of things at once, but most of the time, people don’t stand there the whole time. They will hang around for 10-15 minutes before moving on to the next.”

Pepmiller was witnessed first-hand the growth of the festival from 20-to-30 artists the first year to now well over one hundred.

“The reason for its success is that it has been community focused, and it has a dedicated committee behind it with an army of volunteers,” Pepmiller said. “Also, for a local artist to be able to go paint next to a nationally-known artist and watch them work, it is invaluable. When I win a second or third (at Augusta), it’s a huge deal.”

Unique events will be featured each day during the festival at a variety of locations from local wineries to historic sites, with specific days in surrounding towns. Along with special events, there will be a Pop-Up Art Gallery at the Harmonie-Verein/American Legion Hall for viewing art and purchases daily until 10 p.m.

“You know what your eye likes,” Kessler said. “We have price points that fit everyone.”

Art completed during the Annual Augusta Plein Air Art Festival will be on display and available for sale each day of the festival at the Harmonie-Verein/American Legion Hall in Augusta as well as on location at each event. Judging and awards and the Final Sale will take place at Mount Pleasant Estates on April 29.

“We have had artists sell their first-ever paintings at our festival,” Kessler said. “It’s a great time to have fun and paint and be inspired by a circle of artists.”

However, you slice it, it’s an opportunity to escape to Missouri Wine Country where not only will you watch art being created but also have the chance to purchase the art straight from the easel.  Whether you are a serious buyer or someone who just appreciates a swath of colors or a naturalistic scene, it’s unique in that you get to know the artists all while enjoying small town hospitality and soaking in the beauty of spring in Missouri.

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