Trail News

Contemporary Plein Air Artists to Capture the Beauty of Rural Coastal Virginia in 2019 Gloucester Arts Festival

Artists Paint
April 8, 2019

Gloucester Arts Festival LogoEdward Hopper, an American realist painter, once said that “if you could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint.”

If you’ve ever stood at the water’s edge in rural coastal Virginia, chances are you know this feeling. The sensation of being overwhelmed by beauty, and little ways to adequately express it.

The special spot where the water licks the land, the blue merges to green, is oft hard to truly describe.

Now, in looking back on Hopper’s work, you can see his inspiration was of city life, mainly in New York.

But his sentiments ring true here.

What does all this have to do with the Virginia Water Trails, paddling and outdoor recreation?

Later this summer, artists from all across the Mid-Atlantic will converge on the Middle Peninsula in Gloucester to paint some of the most beautiful waterways of our region – many that you have likely wanted to or have paddled in the past.

So we’re here to tell you – don’t just save the date. Save the entire month of June for the 2019 Gloucester Arts Festival.

Artist Painting in Gloucester Rural Coastal Virginia Gloucester Arts Festival Plein Air

Presented by the Cook Foundation, the Gloucester Arts Festival will return June 1-30, 2019 for a month-long celebration of the arts that will bring together plein air painting, Seward Johnson painted bronze statues, music, workshops, demonstrations, artist gatherings, mural painting, and community paint events for artists of all experiences and ages.

The 2019 event – which kicks off and culminates with free community concerts – features an artist invitational where more than 20 artists from the mid-Atlantic region will paint ‘en plein air’ at various scenic spots around the county and compete for more than $20,000 in prize money.

Plein air painting gained favor with the French impressionists as they took their canvases out of the studio to paint outside (‘en plein air) in order to capture the effects of transient light.

“They sought to create an art of movement, candid poses and composition, emphasizing the natural light and the viewer’s quick study,” said Adrianne Ryder-Cook Joseph of the Cook Foundation. “Not fussy or belabored, plein air painting is increasingly appreciated by today’s collectors and painters, with the number of plein air festivals increasing across the United States.”

The power of art, and plein air painting, helps celebrate “places we all inherently recognize and with which we feel a connection, vistas that revive our senses, both grounding and uplifting us, making our hearts soar with the joy of seeing what we love, as we breathe in deeply,” Joseph said.

Artist Painting Waterfront in Gloucester Rural Coastal Virginia Gloucester Arts Festival

An artist’s “fresh eye gently and unpretentiously reminds us to look up from our technological devices and take nourishment from the beautiful world in which we are so fortunate to live.”

The Gloucester Arts Festival has secured Kenn Erroll Backhaus, a Master Level Artist in both the Oil Painters of America and the American Impressionist Society, as judge and juror of the plein air painting event. He is a member and past President of the Plein Air Painters of America, the oldest and most prestigious plein air organization in the country, and has regularly judged national-level shows.

Just like in its first year, the Gloucester Arts Festival committee anticipates the contemporary plein air artists to capture the beauty of life along the rivers, fields and communities in Gloucester. Artwork will be displayed at Arts on Main and will become a part of the Heart of the River collection that was started in 2017, the first year of the festival.

More than 5,000 people are expected to attend the festival throughout the month.

Plan to be among them by mapping out your festival itinerary.

And bring your paddles. Why not plan a waterway excursion before and/or after enjoying the art festivities?


Symphony Under the Stars Free Family Concert & Nocturne Paint Out

Saturday, June 1

For the 13th year, and its third time as part of the Gloucester Arts Festival, the Cook Foundation will present the Symphony Under the Stars, a free family concert on Main Street featuring the Virginia Symphony orchestra. Attendees are encouraged to bring a lawn chair or blanket, and to arrive early. In the event of forecasted rain, the concert will be held at LightHouse church on George Washington Memorial Highway. Prior to the concert, festival artists will be on site painting in plein air. Paintings from this Nocturne Paint Out will be on display at the Stewart Gallery on Main Street throughout the festival.

Sculptures on Main

Throughout the Month

Seward Johnson painted bronze statues will return to Main Street for the community to enjoy.

Plein Air Painting

June 1-6

Plein air painting will take place at various scenic locations throughout Gloucester. There will be two public opportunities for the community to engage with the artists.

Meet the Artists Dinner

June 4

In this ticketed event held at Brent & Becky’s Bulbs, attendees can meet the plein air artists and watch them in action.

Painting Demonstrations

June 1, 2 and 8

The community is invited to watch and learn from award-winning artists.

Patrons Party & Gala

June 7

In this ticketed event for art patrons, the Heart of the River 2019 Plein Air Art Collection will be unveiled at Arts on Main.

Paint Main 2.5 & Muralist Painting & Music

June 8

Festival artists and locals will converge on Main Street to paint the downtown ‘en plein air. A muralist – Amy Bartlett Wright from Rhode Island, a native of the Eastern Shore – will continue to paint her commissioned mural on Main Street during this event. The mural will a celebration of the landscape and heritage of the county’s watermen. Soundscapes will perform on Main Street during the event, too.

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Art Mobile & Chrysler Museum Glass Blowing Exhibit

June 8

VMFA Art Mobile visits Main Street alongside the Chrysler Museum of Art Glass Blowing Exhibit.

Paint Main Reception

June 9

A public reception at the Stewart Gallery on Main Street will showcase the works from festival artists and locals from Paint Main 2.5.

Arts at Abingdon Concert

June 13

Join the Arts at Abingdon Church for a concert with the Kitchen Dwellers.

U.S. Navy Fleet Forces Band Community Concert

June 30

Closing out the festival, the U.S. Navy Fleet Forces Band will perform a free community concert.

Learn more about the Gloucester Arts Festival at