More than two dozen artists will reveal in Mt. Lebanon festival

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Those who love a particular Mt. Lebanon site may have it immortalized at the inaugural Plein Air Mt. Lebanon festival.

From Oct. 2-7, more than two dozen professional painters will converge upon the community for the first Plein Air -- or in the open air -- art event.

Residents can offer suggestions for their favorite picturesque location by submitting them at Orbis Caffe and Uptown Coffee shops in Mt. Lebanon or by going online to

Plein air artists produce their works on location, immersed in the environment of their object. It's a technique that became popular in 19th-century Europe when paint became available in tubes and pigments no longer needed to be ground in the studio.

"This festival is like a sporting event for painters," said David Csont of the Mt. Lebanon Partnership, the organization hosting the event. "They really become experts at working outdoors."

With their easels and paints in tow, the painters will spend three days traveling the community's regions, producing anywhere from two to nine oil, watercolor or pastel works of art. The paintings will also be entered to win $6,000 in awards. All the works will be displayed at a gala on Oct. 5 at the municipal building on Washington Road. They will also be available for purchase.

The paintings will be judged by nationally known plein air expert Ron Donoughe. Several local companies have underwritten prize money.

"When all the paintings are displayed, there is a lot of energy," Mr. Csont said. A plein air painter himself, he has participated in several similar festivals throughout the country. "[These artists] know exactly how to capture the images that translates something to people," he said.

Sales from these types of events tend to be higher than those from a gallery because the images are meaningful to the audience, explained Susan Morgans of the partnership. She predicted the works from this festival will sell from about $800 to $3,000.

Sixty percent of the profits will go to the artist, and 40 percent will go to the partnership so that it can perpetuate the event. The partnership will also use its portion of the profits to establish a new fund, the Mt. Lebanon Arts Initiative, to promote the arts within the community.

"It could go toward music lessons, high school arts scholarships or public art forums," Mr. Csont said.

The artists are locally and nationally recognized for their plein air works, Mr. Csont said. Upon their arrival on Oct. 1, they will take a trolley tour of Mt. Lebanon with a representative of the Mt. Lebanon Historical Society who will highlight historical homes and other places of value to local residents.

"There are many stone walls, lush gardens, beautiful churches and romantic architecture. Who knows, an artist might even paint people coming in and out of one of the uptown coffee shops," Mr. Csont said.

Artist Beverly Ford Evans from Franklin, Tenn., noted that the difference between painting in a studio and outside is like comparing apples and oranges.

"When you're outside, everything is dynamic. There are lights, bugs, dogs barking and people talking to you," she explained.

Coraopolis painter Claire Hardy said she welcomes the interaction with curious spectators.

"But concentration on making every brush stroke count becomes harder. ... It's hard for me to verbalize at that moment," she said.

"People apparently love to approach these artists. They can even negotiate with the artist at a site if they want to buy the painting," Ms. Morgans said. However, paintings bought on location will not be eligible for prize money and will need to be purchased through the partnership, she said.

To wrap up the event, painters of any skill level and age can participate in the Mt. Lebo Paint-Out! on Oct. 6. Lining their easels along the uptown section of Washington Road, they will have from 10 a.m. to noon to complete a plein air painting and compete for more than $1,000 in prizes. At noon, the easels will be turned toward the street for patrons to view and purchase.

"We are hoping to get about 100 participants," Ms. Morgans said.

At 6.2 square miles and "walkable," Mt. Lebanon is the perfect size for this type of event, Mr. Csont said.

"The most important aspect is the artists painting in the neighborhoods. We're really envisioning this could be a draw for people from all over the region and beyond," Ms. Morgans said.

artarchitecture - neigh_south

Laurie Bailey, freelance writer:


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