Sonoma Plein Air aids school art
CROWDS LOOK AT some of the paintings done during the “Quick Draw” event on the Plaza Tuesday evening as a part of Sonoma Plein Air. The paintings done on Tuesday were for sale.
Thirty-nine plein air painters will bring Sonoma scenes to life on their canvases this week, and then sell them to raise funds for art projects for Valley students. Professional artists, painting to provide access to art for future artists, is the master plan.
On Saturday, the Sonoma community can see all of the paintings created throughout the week during the daylong art festival on the Plaza, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. In addition to the art for sale, there are painting demonstrations and live music throughout the day.
This is the 10th anniversary of Sonoma Plein Air, an event started when founder Keith Wicks’ daughter, Walker, complained they only had art at school once a month. The passage of time can be marked by noting that Walker is now in college, and more than $550,000 has been donated for youth art.
“Plein air” means painting outside, capturing natural light. The artists, who have come from places as far away as Idaho and Illinois to participate, paint all week and then exhibit their work on the Plaza this Saturday. They keep 60 percent of the sale price, with 40 percent going to the Sonoma Plein Air Foundation for future distribution.
On Tuesday, there was a preview “Quick Draw” event, during which the artists gathered in and around the Plaza from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., painting during the farmers market for optimum opportunity to be seen.
The paintings created during that time were sold that night at the Charles Creek tasting room.
Tonight, Friday, there is a gala dinner and auction, which sold out almost instantly, perhaps in part because this year it is being held at the estate of Disney/Pixar CEO John and Nancy Lasseter in Glen Ellen. Tonight, the painting that the artists themselves have voted is the best work of the week, will be auctioned, and past paintings have gone for as much as $40,000. At the gala, the Plein Air board has the opportunity to rally support from deep-pocket donors, and this year a special film is being made to warm their hearts.
Boardmember Anne Ziemienski went to Sonoma Valley High School film teacher Peter Hansen, who once again identified one of his students, this time a graduate, to make the film (see below). Luke Lasley used time lapse photography to show plein air artist Dennis Ziemienski scouting out a place to paint, and then creating a painting, capturing the entire plein air experience on film. “It really helps get everyone excited when they see the film that night,” Anne said. She joined the board four years ago, in part to help put together the first plein air film, made by Hansen’s student Matthew Compton-Clark. “In that film, we went to the schools and filmed students doing art projects funding by the Plein Air Foundation. It reminds the donors that we are really doing this for the students.”
Plein Air has a volunteer board with each member putting in endless volunteer hours orchestrating all the aspects of the event. This year, Anne is the artist liaison, overseeing the juried application process early in the year and then communicating with them before and during their stay. The artists are offered free housing, staying in homes and guest cottages offered by residents throughout the Valley.
For Wicks, work on the event goes on all year. “There’s no break from Plein Air,” he said, but he loves every minute of it. Of everything he has done in his life, he is most pleased and proud of the success of this event, which has gotten “bigger and better” every year. “We are still amazed 10 years later, that this has grown into such a reputable event, and that we have raised so much money,” Wicks said. “Kids really need to have a hands-on experience with art. By buying our art, you are giving the kids in our community a chance to enjoy art.”
Sonoma Plein Air is also helping to put the Valley on the map as an important place in the art world. Wicks believes that when art historians look back on this time period, Sonoma Plein Air will be recognized as being as important as the Laguna Beach and Carmel plein air festivals are in bringing the plein air art form to the forefront.
Find out more at sonomapleinair.com.