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A breath of Plein Air

Suffolk hosted artists all over the city to catch the right light on its unique landscape.

Suffolk is hosting its first Plein Air Festival this weekend, with events from Sept. 9-12. This event was presented by a partnership between Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts, Suffolk Art League and Suffolk Tourism.

The festival was planned for last year but was postponed due to COVID-19. This gave the organizers a chance to advertise in Plein Air Magazine, which got the word out to artists across the country.

“Our overall goal is to teach the public about Plein Air and its particular art style,” said Sandy Waters, assistant exhibition manager at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts.

Plein Air is a particular style of painting where the artists go outdoors to paint the scenery in its natural light, capturing the scene as they see it.

Around 38 artists from across the East Coast came to take part in the festival. Many were local from Hampton Roads and northeastern North Carolina. Others came from further away, including other parts of Virginia, Maryland and Orlando, Fla.

Betty Huang, artist and owner of Studio B Art Gallery, traveled from Easton, Md. Never having been to Suffolk before, she was excited to paint these new and beautiful sights and support another group of Plein Air artists.

“It’s wonderful that Suffolk is organizing its first Plein Air event,” said Huang. “The event will bring a lot of art and culture to the city and hopefully, more people will come to see the art at the Cultural Arts Center.”

The artists spent the weekend across the city painting the unique nature and city scenes Suffolk offers. On Friday, many went to Johnson and Sons Seafood off Dogwood Trail to paint the boats on Chuckatuck Creek. Others went to other locations, including Sandy Point off Pitchkettle Road, Decoys Marina and the fishing station at Lake Cahoon to capture the waterways in Suffolk.

They did not forget the downtown Suffolk landscape, as many artists saved that location for the Quick Draw Competition during Taste of Suffolk on Saturday. The competition opened to more than just the festival participants to spend two hours completing a Plein Air painting to be judged wet.

Those in the festival submitted two of their paintings that will hang in the BB&T and Norfolk Foundation at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts to be judged for a $3,000 prize. According to Waters, with close to 80 paintings, the galleries will be the fullest they’ve ever been.

Suffolk Center marketing manager, D’Arcy Weiss, said the community came together to support the festival. Some individuals donated as well as corporate sponsors.

“This is a good economic boost for the community,” said Waters. “As it grows, more will come to the area and eat at our restaurants, shop in our stores and sleep in our hotels. It could really make Suffolk a destination.”