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North Carolina Plein Air Art Festival kicks off Sunday in New Bern

NC Plein Air Art Festival
The N.C. Plein Air Art Festivals runs May 14-21. It's a week-long festival with many opportunities to interact with artists.

The North Carolina Plein Air Art Festival in New Bern begins Sunday. Thirty-five artists have been selected to compete for $14,000 in prizes as part of the week-long event, where they’ll create hundreds of paintings of people and places around Pamlico, Craven and Carteret Counties.

Members of the public are invited to engage with the artists as they paint. The festival’s app includes an artist locator that will show you where each artist is painting. For the painters, who come from all over the world, they are eager to paint scenes of New Bern, Oriental, and Beaufort.

“It’s a painter's delight here,” Kippy Hammond, an artist and the festival’s organizer, said. “They love Oriental’s shrimp boats, New Bern’s historic homes, and all of Beaufort’s charm.”

“Plein air” is French for “open air.” Plein air painting is an exercise to build painters skills. Artists set up an easel outside and paint what they see. From start to finish, the process takes less than three hours. Kippy Hammond says plein air painting teaches artists to capture light and shadows in a more realistic way than photographs or studio painting.

The festival runs May 14-21. Events include painting demos with professional artists, exhibitions and sales, artist forums, and youth painting classes. Paintings will be displayed and on sale at New Bern’s farmer’s market throughout the week. Sixty percent of sales go to the artist.

Now in its third year, the festival is a unique opportunity for local artists and the public to see professionals in action and to learn more about the creative process, Hammond says.

“People are excited to see things being created,” Hammond said, adding it sometimes inspires others to pick up the paint brush. “Maybe put aside their passion for art from college, and this really stimulates people to get back in front of the easel.”

Ryan is an Arkansas native and podcast junkie. He was first introduced to public radio during an internship with his hometown NPR station, KUAF. Ryan is a graduate of Tufts University in Somerville, Mass., where he studied political science and led the Tufts Daily, the nation’s smallest independent daily college newspaper. In his spare time, Ryan likes to embroider, attend musicals, and spend time with his fiancée and two cats.