Forgotten Coast Cultural Coalition President Leslie Fedota, said plein air is more than paints and brushes—it’s about spirit.
The 2014 Forgotten Coast Plein Air Paint Out, a week-long celebration of art came to a close Sunday after bringing art-centric events to locations from Mexico Beach to Alligator Point.
More than 20 nationally acclaimed painters from all over the world set up easels and hunted for interesting subjects using only natural light as they captured “Old Florida” on canvas.
The idea behind an open-air painting is to capture a moment in time while completing all work on-site, around other painters and spectators, outside of a typical studio environment.
“The whole mission of the FCCC is to embrace our area,” said Fedota, “I heard so many wonderful stories of people connecting through the plein air events who may not have met otherwise.
“Those relationships will last beyond the 10-day event.”
Events included five exhibits across the coast, daily art demonstrations, art sales, and workshops that allowed members of the public to learn trade secrets directly from participating artists.
Fedota said that this year, the event saw a higher number of art sales and buyers came from further away.
By her calculations, 16 states were represented at this year’s Paint Out, an effect of collectors that follow the artists to add one-of-a-kind pieces to their collections.
Special events included a student art day with handpicked students from Gulf and Franklin counties that spent an afternoon working one-on-one with artists at Frank Pate Park in Port St. Joe, along with a family art day, held on the final day of the Paint Out.
Fedota said that anything the FCCC can do to enhance opportunities for children, it is “solidly behind.”
“It was so heartwarming to watch the students work together with the artists,” said Fedota of student art day. “It was great that the students had the courage to explore and it was fun see their creativity take off.”
Fedota thanked the Gulf County Tourist Development Council which played host to the opening luncheon and TGIF event. Artists had a chance to rest their painting arms in favor of kicking back to socialize with locals and other guests over food and drink.
During the event, a Plein Air Academy pilot program was tested that allowed up-and-coming artists interested in making the jump to a full-time plein air lifestyle to be mentored by those who have made a living in the industry for several years.
The spirit-driven program, developed by FCCC chairman Joe Taylor, will officially launch at the 2015 event with an application process for the burgeoning professionals. Artists accepted for the program will learn the philosophies and techniques that go into being a true plein air painter.
“Many people who attend our workshops are curious and want to know more,” said Fedota. “Some of them are plein air artists and we saw an opportunity to provide that next step.”
Though the Wetroom, a central location where all paintings are hung upon completion, was housed at the Center for History, Culture and Art in downtown Apalachicola, it will return to Port St. Joe for the 2015 Paint Out, which also happens to be the tenth anniversary of the event.
Aside from the academy launch and the potential for additional speakers at next year’s event, Fedota said she’s keeping the anniversary details hush-hush, not wanting to jinx anything.
“We love the ways that the artists connect with our area,” said Fedota. “In return, the local community shares stories with them.
“It’s a celebration of spirit.”
Fedota shared a story that she believed encompassed the spirit of plein air. Georgia’s David Boyd and Germany’s Leon Holmes traveled to Carrabelle and spent an afternoon painting boats in a derelict shipyard. Thrilled with the results of their work, the men returned to the shipyard the following day to paint them again only to find that the boats had been bulldozed. All that remained of the subjects were shards of wood.
In tribute, Holmes found a piece of timber from the boat he immortalized on canvas the previous day and painted a shrimp boat on the scrap.
“It was great to know they will live on in the paintings,” Holmes said of the boats. “It was so wonderful to know that the paintings we all did are capturing an area and era that is slowly disappearing.”
Holmes, who won first place at the Quick Draw competition, said he took home three paintings to remind himself of his time on the Forgotten Coast.
“It was an amazing experience,” said Holmes. “I was overwhelmed by the hospitality of the people and how they responded to both myself and my work.”
While Holmes celebrated his first trip to the area, Boyd, a returning artist, said he plans to return to the area several times prior to next year’s Paint Out.
“It was such a great experience being able to paint alongside so many artists that I have held in such high esteem,” said Boyd. “The people of the Forgotten Coast were so warm and welcoming and there was no shortage subject matter.
“The Forgotten Coast is a special place and has a special place in my heart.”
Plein air brings together the communities of Mexico Beach, Port St. Joe, Cape San Blas, Indian Pass, Apalachicola, Eastpoint, St. George Island, Carrabelle, and Alligator Point to produce one of the largest art-focused events on the coast. The FCCC also receives support from the Gulf and Franklin County Tourist Development Councils, Mexico Beach Community Development Council and Visit Florida.
“Our hope is that with each event--each moment--any one of those moments creates a spark of inspiration or creativity for someone,” said Fedota. “These artists take something that we locals have seen a thousand times and help to remind us of the awe of the area.
“Through them, we can experience that awe anytime we choose.”