Art is in The Air

04 Jun 2024

Acclaimed artists from around the world come to Cashiers

By: Brittany Conley

Everywhere you look along the plateau could easily be described as “pretty as a picture,” with throngs of visitors vying to get the best shot with their cell phones and digital cameras. But returning to Cashiers this year is an art festival that revives much older artistic traditions, reminiscent of Monet and Renoir.

En Plein Air means “open air” in French. “Artists have long painted outdoors, but in the mid-19th century working in natural light became important to a realist art movement in Barbizon, France,” says Ashlie Mitchell, executive director of The Village Green. “It was the first time in history that artists went out to study the landscape on location; to observe the effects of light on the forms in space under unique conditions. Painting en plein air forever changed how artists see the world.”

“Cashiers Plein Air Festival is coordinated and organized by a dedicated committee of volunteers. This year, the committee members, who are also instrumental in other national plein air festivals, worked together to vet and invite 19 acclaimed artists. Some of these artists are veterans of the Cashiers Plein Air Festival while others are joining us for the first time,” says Mitchell.

This year the committee has chosen its first designated chairperson, longtime Cashiers resident and Cashiers Plein Air Festival committee member, Jill Wolfe. “I have been involved with the CPAF since its inception in 2008,” says Wolfe, noting she’s done everything from assisting artists to hanging paintings at Lewis Hall.

On July 14th, invited artists will make their way to Cashiers, setting up and breaking out their mediums of choice to capture the area’s splendor, painting daily through July 20th. While the Plein Air Festival committee scouts the area beforehand, making suggestions as to where the artists might find inspiration, ultimately each artist chooses the locations that speak to them. They’ll be equipped with large umbrellas in case the unpredictable summertime weather takes a turn, but the event is rain or shine. Upon completion, each piece will be brought to the gallery at Lewis Hall. “You can see why the artist has chosen a location when they bring in their new pieces every day and talk about where they were earlier in the morning, or the previous evening,” says Mitchell. The gallery is open to the public, for free, July 18-19th, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and July 20th from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. “We are truly lucky to have Lewis Hall as such an exceptional indoor venue that showcases each artist’s work so beautifully,” says Mitchell.

The Village Green offers 20 biodiverse acres for visitors to enjoy picnics, educational opportunities, wildlife viewing and so much more, including more than 100 free public events every year. Yet, the park receives no regional, state or federal funding. Instead, they rely on the generosity of the community through donations and fundraising efforts. The proceeds from the Plein Air Festival, from art purchases and donations, will go toward capital improvement projects.

“This year one of our main focuses for capital improvement projects is the restoration and expansion of our Village Play area,” says Mitchell. “The current playground was built by more than 1,500 community volunteers over a five-day period in 2002. Over 20 years later, The Village Green is again focusing on involving the community to help us restore the current playground structure and add new elements such as a ropes course, new slides, a climbing tower, a new ADA accessible tot-lot area and a large play net,” says Mitchell. The project, including restrooms, will total close to $975,000–a portion of which they hope to cover through the Plein Air Festival.

The CPAF committee is ecstatic for the opportunity to assist in this endeavor. “As a resident of Cashiers for 18 years, I have seen The Village Green grow into a beautiful area appreciated by both residents and visitors. The playground is enjoyed by children of all ages every day of the year! Knowing that our proceeds from Plein Air will improve this area is very exciting for me,” says Wolfe.

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