Artists transform Elora into living canvas during Plein Air Festival

ELORA – Picturesque Elora became a hub of artistic energy May 18 to 21 as local and visiting artists gathered for the annual Plein Air Festival.  

Officials say Elora was the perfect backdrop for artists to showcase their talents and celebrate the beauty of outdoor painting. 

Plein air is a French term meaning “in the open air,” and involves creating artwork directly in nature, capturing scenes with their natural light and surroundings. 

The Elora Plein Air Festival, now in its sixth year attracts artists from as far away as Saskatchewan, Ottawa, Nova Scotia, and New York. 

Over the course of four days, 70 artists set up their easels across Elora and Fergus, transforming the communities into open-air studios. 

They fanned out across parks, riverbanks, and sidewalks, passionate about the expressive and immersive artistic approach.

Elora Plein Air committee chair Barbara Lee has been a part of the festival since the first event in 2016. 

“We are delighted with the turnout, both to the event and sale day, where people came from our community and from further afield to buy art,” she said. 

“We really love it when people from within the community people come out. Sometimes you’ll hear them say, ‘that’s my house,’ or ‘that’s one of my favourite places to go.’ They recognize the piece and it’s interesting because every artist has a different interpretation.”

Participants had the freedom to choose their subject matter, whether it be a serene landscape, a bustling street scene, or a quiet corner of town. 

Their paintings featured a diverse range of styles, techniques and perspectives, reflecting the unique artistic voices of each creator, officials say.

Lee recalled that while organizing the first event in 2016, organizers were so focused on artist engagement and outreach, they didn’t do much to promote the sale day. 

“It was barely on our radar … then on sale day people were saying ‘you don’t have any signs up about the sale’ and we were running around last minute that morning while the judge was walking through.’” 

It’s been a learning curve for organizers, but the event has continued to grow over the years.

“We rent the facility at the Elora Centre for the Arts, and this is as big a space as we can get right now,” Lee said.

“Because each artist can submit up to three pieces, we’re talking about [potentially] 210 pieces of art with limited wall space. 

“We can only get so many in one room.

“But I can’t stress this enough: without our incredible volunteer team and fabulous sponsors, we wouldn’t be able to run Plein Air.”

The event also included live demonstrations by renowned artists like Eileen MacArthur, who set up Friday afternoon on the Victoria Street pedestrian bridge overlooking the Elora Mill, giving experienced and novice painters the opportunity to refine their skills. 

The event has not only become a beloved tradition, but also an economic boost to the town, with visitors exploring the village’s unique shops, contributing to local businesses. 

Next year’s Elora Plein Air festival is already eagerly anticipated, promising another weekend of artistic enchantment and creative inspiration.

Advertorial Writer