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Artists to compete in Midway

Dan Bischoff, Of the Record staff

Since the time of the French Impressionists, artists all over the world have packed up their gear and headed outdoors to paint "en Plein air" or in other words, "in the open air."

In keeping with this tradition, the Midway Art Association (MAA) invites all artists for a week of related plein air activities starting Tuesday, June 27. The week includes three painting competitions, a July 3-4 art exhibit, an awards reception, and a silent art auction. The event coincides with Midway’s traditional Fourth of July festivities. Visit http://www.midwaycityut.org for more information.

There are plein air competitions all over the U.S. and four of them in Utah, according to MAA chairperson Susette Gertsch. Plein air artists often face challenges. They pit themselves against the elements, time limitations, changing light conditions, and bugs in order to find their inspiration through nature.

"We are all descendents of French Impressionist masters who painted in the open air," Gertsch said. "It’s a style that is a direct observation from nature. When you are out there you get wind, rain, bugs and animals you are fighting elements, but you love it because you get this great connection with nature. We paint all times of the day and night. It’s just being out there in nature, in the fields, by streams and wherever you can set up an easel."

Artists will have several options during the competition for painting times. Details are available at http://www.midwayartassociation.org. The first painters will check-in at the Midway City offices between 7:30 and 9 a.m., Tuesday through Friday, June 27-30. They will have one or two surfaces officially "stamped" for the competition, and then will be free to wander for two or three days throughout Wasatch County to paint "en Plein air".

A jury will select winners Saturday, July 1, in the Midway City Town Hall and the art exhibit will open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday, July 3-4. Drawings and paintings will be available for purchase, and a silent action of items donated by artists and merchants will also be displayed. Purchase awards of $2,000, $1,500, and $1,000 are being offered for the winning professional artists, with Zions Bank sponsoring first and third place, and the developers of Canyon View Estates sponsoring second place. A variety of awards, ribbons and cash prizes will be given to semi-professional and amateur categories. Heber Valley Bank, the Midway Heritage Foundation, Midway Main Street Station, Summit Engineering, Mountain America Bank, and a few private donors have also made generous contributions to fund the event.

"Our goal is to attract the statewide attention of artists and lovers of nature to our extraordinary, pastoral valley and to preserve the beauty of it through art, since we realize that development of the land is quickly changing it forever. We believe that this yearly competition will become a strong part of the cultural fabric of this area," said Pam Weilenmann, fundraiser and publicity chairperson for MAA.

In addition to the previous week’s competition, artists will enjoy a three hour "Midway Main Street Paintout". This competition is akin to an Old West "shoot-out," however, artists will be seen on historic Midway Main Street brandishing brushes and pastels rather than pistols, to determine who is the best and fastest ‘draw’ in town. Artists will then display their work for judging at noon, and prizes will be awarded.

"Art is for everyone and we would like to see dozens of artists on Midway Main Street, with beginning painters working right next to professionals. It’s going to be very exciting," Weilenmann said.

Seasoned and well-known artists such as the Plein Air Painters of Utah (PAPU), come to Wasatch County regularly and can be seen at their easels in the north fields, by roadsides and other picturesque locations. The PAPU will join Midway Art Association members on June 22 for a special plein air session in preparation for the upcoming competition.

Anyone over the age of 18 can register. Prizes will go to Utah artists. The MAA also invites spectators to observe the artists.

"We love visitors, artists of this type are used to having people around, we are very visitor friendly. During the competition, the artists will be pretty focused, but we totally expect the public to watch and we don’t have a problem with that at all," Gertsch said.

A list of some well-known local artists attending the event include: Kerrie Penny, Linda Curly Christianson, Judy Schomaker, Brenda Hines and Marilynn Nielson. Professional Utah artist Doug Braithwaite will also take part.

The Midway Art Association is holding a plein air competition for amateurs and professionals June 27-July 4. There will be a pre-event activity June 22. For more information or to register, visit http://www.pleinairpaintersofutah.com or http://www.midwayartassociation.org or call Susette Gertsch at 654-1968.

— Susette Gertsch also contributed to this story


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