Sedona. Her environment is naturally inspirational. Artisans travel thousands of miles, crossing oceans and deserts to capture—either on camera or canvas—the breathtaking beauty of her resplendent red rocks. It is within this enchanted setting that the Sedona Arts Center (SAC) has thrived—cultivating an even deeper appreciation for the arts within the community over the last 60 years. “We are founded on the idea that, when artists gather together and share ideas, something good will happen,” explained Vince Fazio, Executive Director of SAC. It is because of that ideological spirit that the Sedona Arts Center initiated its annual Plein Air Festival 15 years ago. Over the past decade and a half, this celebration of art has evolved into an exquisite expression and manifestation of Sedona’s creative heart.
“Plein Air is painting outdoors from life,” Vince stated, adding that the term originated in mid-19th century France. En Plein Air translates to the outdoors, in the open air. Plein Air painting mirrors the radiant effects of natural light and the atmosphere. So, if nature’s inspiration and the external space of life is what an artist seeks, then Sedona and its surrounding landscape are, most certainly, superb subjects.
Twenty-five of the nation’s finest, Plein Air painters will be attending. All are intent on exhibiting the beauty and spirit of Sedona’s hypnotic landscapes—witnessed through their eyes and captured on their canvases. This year, SAC is especially excited to be able to offer $10,000 in cash prizes to these participating artists, all thanks to the benevolence of two anonymous donors.
“In the past, we haven’t had real prize money. It’s been token amounts, relatively speaking, compared to other festivals.” Vince expressed his incredible gratitude to the unnamed donors for their contribution and his excitement to share that with these extraordinary artists. The festival kicks off with an Opening Reception on Saturday the 12th of October at 7 P.M. at the SAC Art Barn, located behind the Sedona Arts Center on 89A. Each participating artist will bring six choice pieces showcasing their strengths and style. “The artists are coming from some very diverse, regional areas,” Vince explained. “From East Coast to West Coast, Washington to Florida. We get a very diverse opening reception profiling the artists’ work from their own areas and possibly from other festivals they have attended.”
The exhibit will remain on display at the Art Barn for the duration of the festival, evolving each day as the artists add new works. Festival-goers can not only view the art in the exhibit but also attend the live events to watch the artists at work. “I try to get the artists to communicate with me where they will be,” revealed Kelli Klymenko, Marketing Director for Sedona Arts Center. “I’ll post it on Facebook and Instagram where they are as far as location goes, and then people can trek out onto trails and try to find the artists where they are painting that day.” Using social media in this way creates an entertaining and exciting adventure for those in attendance. It allows people to follow the progression and process of any given artist throughout the week.
“I think part of what makes our festival unique is its educational component.” Vince explained how valuable it could be, “if you are a painter, to watch some of these paintings getting done, and to see what happens at an event like this with really top-notch artists.” Vince noted that the artists demonstrate a variance of media and styles and shared that, while oil paint tends to dominate in Plein Air, watercolor, pastel and acrylic are represented, too. The artists also differ in their preferred subject matter. While some favor sweeping landscapes and others more detailed scenes, some elect to paint other artists at work. In addition to its educational component, the festival also has an air of friendly competition. There are three paint-outs held through the course of the festival. During these competitions, the artists all gather in one location and paint for an allotted amount of time, then it’s brushes down, and the judging begins.
“At these paint-outs,” Vince shared, “patrons and the general public are just walking through, back and forth and looking at work that is being done. The paint-outs give the audience a chance to engage in a deeper way than just coming across a painting on the wall. It becomes more of an experience to them.”
The first paint-out commences on Wednesday, the 16th of October from 9 A.M. to noon at L’Auberge de Sedona. This breathtaking resort, nestled on the banks of the Oak Creek, has been a Plein Air paint-out host for the festival for almost a decade now. The Sunset Paint-Out, hosted last year at Seven Canyons Golf Resort, has a new location this year. Artists will gather at Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill on Thursday the 17th of October at 3 P.M. to paint the enchanting sunset vista from this magnificent location. Award-winning chef and owner of Mariposa, Lisa Dahl, expressed her delight in hosting this event. “I look forward to the Plein Air Festival every year in Sedona,” Lisa exclaimed. “The Dahl Restaurant Group welcomes and supports the artists visiting this beautiful and environmentally sacred town.”
Chef Dahl has designed a unique pairing of tapas and wine for the reception and awards ceremony, which will take place from 4:30 to 5:30. As space is limited, tickets become available for purchase beginning the 15th of September. The Sedona Arts Center will be presenting a food, wine and artist’s awards reception on Friday evening, the 18th of October from 5 P.M. to 8 P.M. This event is free and open to the public. And finally, the Uptown Paint-Out will wrap up the festival on Saturday morning. “They paint during the morning,” Vince began, “and then we have a sale of paintings directly after the paint-out. We line all the paintings up r P.M.ight in front of the Arts Center. Then there is a barbecue; we feed anybody who comes.”
Even with the festival’s slight atmosphere of competition, the friendliness and comradery among the artists are apparent. The amity they have towards one another becomes a subtle undercurrent, running through the festival and the community that week.
“It is both a competition and a commune,” Vince said, adding that the artists are mostly friends and they respect each other. “Yes, they are competing in a way, but they are also more competing with themselves than with each other.” Sedona’s Plein Air Festival is a wonderful and enriching opportunity for anyone who appreciates the arts.
“When artists gather together and share ideas, something good will happen.” - Vince Fazio
Story written by Sara Knight | Photos Provided by Sedona Art Center