Southport Plein Air 2023

Plein Air 2023

2023 Southport Plein Air Festival

For the Public...

A Festival Like No Other

The 2023 Southport Plein Air festival is upon us! You will see artists painting outside all over Southport beginning Thursday, May 18 -- over 70 people have registered this year already. We know from past festivals they enjoy and feel welcomed by your hospitality, so please don't be shy.

Plein Air - Painting thumb

As you stroll the streets of Southport enjoying the festival, take time to stop and watch the creative process of the painters in real-time.

Open Air Painting

Plein Air - Kids thumb

Give your children an opportunity to create their own masterpiece at the Kids Plein Air (art supplies provided). 

Kids' Plein Air

Plein Air - Music thumb

Check out the live music performances throughout the festival. See below for times and locations.


Things to Do at Southport’s Plein Air Festival 2023

Food & Fun

Up Your Arts has big plans for the activities scheduled in Franklin Square Park on Saturday, May 20. Long before the Wet Paint Sale starts at 4pm, families can participate in all kinds of free art-y goings-on all day, fortified by three different food trucks: freshly fried seafood from Chuck’s Mobile Seafood, hot dogs and more from Moore Dogs and More, and lots of treats from Lil and John’s Sweetreat Ice Cream Parlor on Oak Island, yum!

Kids Plein Air

For the littles, we have watercolor painting at Kids Plein Air from 10am-2pm, with a special project run by Ginger and Kelly from 2nd Story Art and Music Studio until noon. Always tons of fun but not too messy (water-based paint just washes right away).

Arts Demonstrations

For adults and older kids, four local craft artists will be demonstrating their well-honed specialties at the same time: mosaic art by Michelle Field, fabric and paper marbling by Carol Kidd, Sashiko hand stitching by Marilyn Ridgeway, and resin pouring by Lisa Giordano Fitz-Gerald. Their guiding hands and knowledge may just entice you to try your hand at something new.

Music and Dance

And, something different for everyone: Perry Smith and Turning the Wheel will be entertaining all day with interactive drumming and dancing performances, perfect for maximum audience participation. Fair warning! There will be no standing idly by when they get going.

  • Perry Smith will lead a drum circle with adults and children playing rhythm games. He will bring 10 different drums and guide prospective drummers through their paces during the day, for ten minutes at a time or 30 seconds, as long as their attention spans will allow.
  • Interactive performances by Turning the Wheel staff will increase the sound factor a bit and get young and oldattendees up on their feet with movement and improvisational dancing games.

We are grateful for this opportunity to showcase their unique, kinetic energies this year, courtesy of a North Carolina Arts Council Grassroots Grant awarded by Brunswick Arts Council. The festival was also honored again with another community grant from Brunswick Electric Company in support of cultural arts.

Wet Paint Sale

Then, the moment we've all been waiting for, the Wet Paint Sale! At 3pm we close the park for an hour to get ready for the plein air artists to display their freshly completed artwork and offer it for sale to the general public. Join the crowd and be ready to enter Franklin Square Park again at 4pm, you will not want to miss this.

Every year, we still stand in amazement as the park fills up with the most incredible depictions of our beautiful surroundings, all painted in the last two or three days. Each one different, each one stunning. It's simply marvelous to see, even if you don't intend to buy. If you do, though, your transactions are strictly between you and the individual artists -- Up Your Arts does not benefit monetarily from the proceeds.

Awards Ceremony

The judges presiding over the Award Ceremony will have a hard time choosing their favorites. And this year, they are the real deal: actual Brunswick County judges! Many thanks to the Honorable Sarah McPherson of Southport for participating and handling the arrangements with her fellow district court jurists, Calvin Chandler, Pauline Hankins, and Bryan Wilson.

Southport Mayor Joe Pat Hatem will return to the festival again to award his best pick and you will be asked to make your People’s Choice Award selection. The winner will be featured in all the graphics for the 2024 plein air festival, just as the 2022 winner, Jon Cox of Oak Island, is featured this year.

Lastly, Up Your Arts is proud to honor the late Eloise Randolph, a Southport artist of singular talent whose passing in January was deeply mourned. The Awards Ceremony will feature a special award presented posthumously by her husband, Jack Randolph, and Debbie Evans, of Ricky Evans Gallery, who will choose the 2023 Southport Plein Air Festival artist whose work is most in keeping with the essence of Eloise Randolph’s genius.

All That AND it's Free!

That's right, the 2023 Southport Plein Air Festival is free to audiences of all ages! What a great opportunity to get out of the house, stretch your legs, embrace some culture, and have some fun!

If you can’t attend any of the activities May 20, you are invited to seek out the artists who will be painting the 18th-20th throughout Southport – 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.

Lots to do, lots to see! We hope you can join us, get a t-shirt, have some fun, buy a painting or two!

For Artists

Welcome! Up Your Arts is looking forward to hosting you soon at the 2023 Southport Plein Air Festival. You are among a group of 75 other registered artists from six different states, some who have participated in previous festivals, some who are brand new to our kind of laid-back experience. Either way, we aim to make this as easy as possible for you to relax and enjoy.

We have prepared a list of frequently asked questions below that may help you navigate the event:

Bring your blank canvasses to Franklin Square Park at 130 E. West Street (corner of Howe and E. West streets) from 8-10am on Thursday or Friday, May 18 and 19. Plein Air committee members will be set up in the gazebo stage in the middle of the park. Restrooms are nearby.

You can find the full artist schedule of events in the Artist invitation tab above.

3-Day Painters Welcome

For those of you who have signed up to paint three days, we hope you will have a beer or a glass of wine on us Thursday afternoon from 4-6pm at American Fish Company (AFCO on the map). The 2023 Southport Plein Air Committee will be on hand to answer questions, suggest activities for your non-painting companions, and give you tips to navigate Southport’s bustling tourist trade.

You are invited to stay and paint what promises to be the most beautiful sunset this side of paradise from AFCO’s deck and listen to an evening of music at our weekly Open Mic Night. Up Your Arts is so proud to celebrate the incredible range of musical talent that thrives here from 7-10pm every Thursday from April to November in partnership with AFCO. You won’t want to miss.

Artist Reception

The following afternoon, we are celebrating all of you at Frying Pan Restaurant next door (FP on the map). Please feel free to bring guests to a reception in your honor from 4-6pm Friday to meet the other artists, the judges, and other local dignitaries, as well as Up Your Arts’ volunteer board of directors and members of the Plein Air committee,  who have been planning all year for your arrival.

Frying Pan has reserved its popular lower deck for this occasion and will be serving a selection of signature appetizers. We will also provide two complementary beer/wine/soda tickets at check in for this meet-and-greet, but you are free to order cocktails separately, if so desired.

No, “canvasses” include whatever surface you would like to paint on, i.e., canvas, paper, panels, or boards.

Have more stamped at any of the other scheduled check-in times:

  • Thursday, May 18, 4-6pm in front of American Fish Company, 150 Yacht Basin Drive, where you can use your happy hour tickets
  • Friday, May 19, 4-6pm at Frying Pan Restaurant, 319 W. Bay Street, concurrent with the reception for artists and guests
  • Saturday, May 20, all day at the Up Your Arts tent in Franklin Square Park

No. Only canvasses stamped with the dates May 18 - May 20, 2023, can be displayed or sold at the Wet Paint Sale. Older date stamps may be in evidence, but the current stamp is required.

  • The Wet Paint Sale will be held in designated areas of Franklin Square Park at 4pm on Saturday, May 20. You can begin setting up at 3pm, when the park is closed to the public for
    one hour to facilitate your set-up process.The loading and unloading zone will be marked by cones on E. West Street, near the Franklin Square Gallery parking lot. Plein Air committee members will be on hand to help unload and transport your equipment and paintings. You can then park your car nearby. There will be food trucks set up (seafood, hot dogs, and ice cream) and we will have water for you.
  • The best displays are easels, either full height or table top. We will also have a few stands from which to hang your paintings, some benches to prop them up, and walls to hang them from. We will have some easels and tables available to you on a first-come, first-served basis, but the best way to ensure appropriate display of your work is to bring your own.

No. All painters will be setting up at the same time, beginning at 3pm.

Yes. You set the price and decide how to display it on your artwork. You will need to have your own credit card processing device, or accept only cash or checks, your preference. There is an ATM machine across the street.

  • Clothing appropriate for rain/shine/hot/cold, also bug spray and an umbrella
  • Business cards and monetary transaction capability, including a wifi hotspot
  • Easels, tables, etc., to display your artwork

A map (above) in your registration bag will have scenic landmarks noted, and restroom and ATM locations. We will also give you a list of sheltered places to paint, in case of rain, and information about parking

2023 Southport Plein Air Festival Approved Rain-Sheltered Painting Locations:

  • North Carolina Maritime Musuem at Southport porches - 204 E. Moore Street
  • Southport Community Building porches and back deck – 223 E. Bay Street (accessible without stairs from E. Moore Street, next door to the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport)
  • Franklin Square Park gazebo – 130 E. West Street (same place as Thursday and Friday mornings’ registration/check in)
  • Salt Marsh Boardwalk and Waterway gazebo - W. Brunswick Street (near Southport Marina)
  • Public parks at various locations:
    • A.C. Caviness Park – North Caswell and Clarendon avenues (picnic shelter)
    • Keziah Memorial Park – W. Moore and N. Lord streets (gazebo)
    • Lowe-White Memorial Park – E. Leonard and N. Atlantic streets (thick tree canopies)
    • Waterfront Park – E. Moore and S. Howe streets (picnic shelters)
  • American Fish Company, 150 Yacht Basin Drive, welcomes you to paint from its deck, as may other open-air restaurants and bars on the waterfront, upon request.

Public restrooms are located at 107 E. Nash Street and behind the Ft. Johnston-Southport Museum and Visitors’ Center at 203 E. Bay Street.

Public Parking Areas:

  • Waterfront Park* on the Cape Fear River at the base of Howe Street
  • Bay Street from S. Howe to S. Atlantic streets
  • Howe Street from Bay to 8th streets
  • Moore Street from W. Lord to Davis streets
  • Moore Street in front of the Southport Community Building
  • Nash Street behind the Old Brunswick County Courthouse/former Southport City Hall
  • E. Nash Street block in front of the US Post Office, both sides
  • W. Nash Street between Lord and Howe streets
  • W. West Street Between Lord and Howe streets
  • The block formed by Caswell Avenue, Bay Street, Yacht Basin Drive, and Moore Street near the Yacht Basin (four-hour limit)
  • Taylor Field Park* at the end of E. Nash Street
  • A.C. Caviness Park at N. Caswell and Clarendon avenues
  • Lowe-White Memorial Park at E. Leonard and N. Atlantic streets

Public Rights of Way:

  • Base of the Water Tower* off Howe Street
  • W. Brown Street between Lord and Howe streets
  • Rhett Street at the Old Smithfield Burying Ground*
  • Gravel drive for the pond* at the west end of St. George Street

Non-public Approved Parking Areas:

  • Southport Marina* at the end of W. West Street

*Landmarks on the above list are noted on the map included with check-in material. Other landmarks can be Googled by name.

Please text or call Bonnie Bray at 301.741.6698 or Marty Dorward at 415.531.7134, if you need help with anything that is not an emergency. Southport police and fire officers will respond to 911 emergency calls.

Artist Invitation

Up Your Arts and the City of Southport are looking forward to hosting the 2023 Southport Plein Air Festival again in beautiful downtown Southport, May 18-20. We had so much fun last time, we are adding another day to the format this year and leaving it up to individual artists to decide: two days of painting or three?



The 2023 Southport Plein Air Festival is open to all paint artists. It is a non-juried event, with merit and People’s Choice awards conferred by local judges. Winners will be registered in the 2024 Southport Plein Air Festival free of charge. There is no limit on medium, quantity or size. Painters retain all proceeds from the sale of their work during the Wet Paint Sale, which is moving to a bigger park this year, so there is also no limit on capacity.


Choose the number of days you want to paint, then register online below OR mail this registration form.

  • All canvases to be entered in the Wet Paint Sale must be stamped at check-in/registration time.
  • Welcome packets will include a map of Southport, with suggested painting spots and other points of interest.
  • Commemorative T-shirts will be available for sale throughout the festival.


Thursday, May 18

Painting can begin anytime after check-in/registration

  • Check in/registration from 8am-10am on the gazebo stage in Franklin Square park, 130 E. West Street
  • Happy hour from 4-6pm at American Fish Company, 150 Yacht Basin Drive – Includes one beverage ticket; advance positioning to paint the best view of Southport’s famous sunsets; proximity to waterfront restaurants; and enjoyment of live music during Up Your Arts’ Thursday Night Open Mic from 7-10pm

Paint the sunset on the water at 8:09pm on Thursday, May 18

Friday, May 19

Painting can begin anytime after check-in/registration

  • Check in/registration from 8am-10am on the gazebo stage in Franklin Square Park, 130 E. West Street
  • Reception for artists and guests from 4-6pm at Frying Pan Restaurant, 319 W. Bay Street – Includes two beverage tickets, happy hour fare, and the best Cape Fear River view in town; check-in/registration continues.

Saturday, May 20

Activity base from 8am-6pm at Franklin Square Park, 130 E. West Street:

  • Kids’ Plein Air & Fiber Art Demonstrations from 10am-2pm
  • Drum Circle and Festival Entertainment from 10am-3pm
  • Food Trucks all day
  • Wet Paint Sale from 4-6pm (artist setup starts at 3pm, closed to the public)
  • Awards ceremony - Merit and People’s Choice awards announced at 5 pm
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