Published in Southport Magazine, May 2022 Issue
STORY AND PHOTOS BY JEFFREY STITES
After decades of living in this community, I finally got to see Southport’s Plein Air Festival for the first time last May. I walked around downtown on a Friday afternoon looking for painters, and ended up finding them in some of what are, I suppose not at all coincidentally, my favorite spots to take photographs. Not being an artist myself, I was mesmerized by the people creating reproductions of some of my favorite familiar spots on canvas as I watched. I chatted with a few of the artists and found that some had never been to Southport before, but after this experience, expected to return. The next day, at the wet art sale and judging that concludes the festival, one of the artists I’d spoken with won the coveted people’s Choice Award! I was hooked, and can’t wait for this year’s festival to kick of on Friday, May 13.
The Southport Plain Air Festival is a partnership between the City of Southport and the non-profit Up Your Arts, and this year they’re bringing a Hispanic theme to the outdoor art event. Highlights will include a Latin-themed dinner reception on Friday, May 13, to meet the artists; several activities on Saturday, May 14, featuring Brazilian and Spanish guitar performers, traditional Hispanic meals and treats served from mobile food trucks, and children engaged with Mexican folk-art projects during Kid’s Plein Air.
The artist dinner reception will be held from 4-6 pm at the Southport Community Building, 223 E. Bay Street. Tickets are available in advance at https://bit.ly/southportpleinair. The $15 entrance fee includes entertainment by jazz pianist David Pope, a meal of carnitas and rice, and one glass of beer or wine, with more available for purchase.
The Back Porch Rockers will perform for the general public from 6-8 pm immediately following Friday’s reception on, of all places, the Community Building’s back porch. This popular six-piece band features a playlist all can enjoy, from classic rock to beach music. The band members are accomplished musicians who generously donate
their time and talents during benefit concerts for non-profit organizations in the area, like Up Your Arts, as a way of giving
back to the community. Be sure to bring your own lawn chairs and refreshments.
Activities on Saturday, May 14, will take place in Keziah Memorial Park at the corner of Moore and Lord Streets until 3 pm at no cost to the public. The park will be full of children participating in Kid’s Plein Air from 10 am-2 pm – Mexican folk art crafts, paints, and other supplies provided – along with Pollock in the Park, a mural extravaganza led by Ginger Hedblom of 2nd Story Art and Music Studio.
Wilmington’s Tacqueria La Vallita mobile food truck will be at Keziah Park from 11 am – 5 pm serving up specialty tacos, tortes,
sopes, and quesadillas. Oak Island’s Lil & John’s Sweetreat Homemade Ice Cream will be on hand to serve up dessert.
Hispanic-themed live performances will be featured all day Saturday in Keziah Park; the performances are underwritten by a North Carolina Arts Council Grassroots Grant awarded to Up Your Arts by Brunswick Arts Council. Brazilian jazz guitarist Raphael
Namé is center stage from 10 am-noon on Saturday and Spanish guitarist Perry Smith with percussion accompaniment from 1-3 pm. The Tedward Brothers trio will entertain in between, from noon-1 pm.
The Southport Plein Air Festival seeks to create not just a celebration of painting, but a celebration of the wide range of artistic expression flourishing here and its contribution to the strength of our entire community. A similar grant awarded last year funded Gullah Geechee historian and master storyteller Anita Singleton-Prather’s portrayal of the First Lady of Gullah, Aunt Pearlie Sue.
One of the highlights of the event every year is the Wet Paint Sale, Saturday’s final activity. Keziah Park will close from 3-4 pm, while
artists return to set up their newly completed paintings for display and sale to the public. Anticipation will build as potential customers gather on the sidewalk, waiting in full-view of their favorite painters’ canvasses until a 4 o’clock bell reopens the park and they can rush in to be the first to claim their desired purchases. The sale goes on until 6 pm or until there are no more paintings left to buy, whichever comes first.
The Southport Plein Air Festival offers something more personal than cash prizes to the artists who participate: the chance to win the People’s Choice Award bestowed by Wet Paint Sale attendees, who vote once for the artist with the most captivating body of work of the festival. Last year’s winner, Lyudmila Lucy Tomova, has won a variety of state and regional awards since then and is featured in all the graphics for this year’s event, including the t-shirt designs — which, if you aren’t able to acquire one of her original paintings, might be the next best thing.
The award ceremony starts at 5 pm Saturday in Keziah, after the Wet Paint Sale gets underway. The most prestigious of them all is the Mayor’s Award presented by City of Southport Mayor Joseph P. Hatem. Five other judges participate, all people with ties to Southport in some measure. Two festivals ago, the judges were all artists, themselves, and last year’s group was a collection of art patrons and educators. This year’s judges are still to be determined.
If you can’t attend any of the activities May 13-14, you are invited to seek out the artists who will be painting those two days along shorelines, in streets and yards, on the grounds of public buildings, in restaurant courtyards and decks – just about any nook and cranny from which a typical Southport scene can be captured on canvas. It’s interesting to see a new take on scenes we see every day, and the artists will likely be interested in your perspective, too.
Read the full article (with pics on p4)