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By Mary Beth Brath, Co-Coordinator, Artist Colony and Plein Air Paint Out

From a painter’s perspective, Gettysburg literally offers endless vistas.  Coupled with the history and beauty of the region, there is limitless inspiration as well.  It’s no wonder that artists participating in Gettysburg Festival events have become passionate about plein air (open air) painting.  As one of those artists, I’m grateful to be a part of the Festival’s planning for 2012 events, which has stirred up a multitude of fantastic memories for me personally.

In 2008, I remember painting at Spangler’s Spring during the first Festival Paint Out.  There was a re-enactment taking place in the distance but all was peaceful at the spring, located within the boundaries of the Gettysburg National Military Park.  As I painted, I could hear the distant sounds of the artillery fire.  It was a very emotional experience that completely “hooked me” regarding painting along the Battlefield Auto Tour and I have participated ever since. To see that life-changing painting, click here.

Artists from Maryland (south of the Mason-Dixon Line) and Pennsylvania (north of the Mason- Dixon Line) came together in 2009 to paint Gettysburg’s hallowed battlefield scenes.  Many strong friendships were forged and still exist today. The Plein Air Paint Out event, as part of the Gettysburg Festival lineup, had firm roots at this point.

2009 Plein Air Artists at Gettysburg Festival

In 2010 and 2011, the Artist Colony was held as a juried and residential experience at Gettysburg Festival.   Amazing Master Artists, Lisa Egeli (2010) and Bill Schmidt (2011) led workshops and helped me learn techniques I have now integrated into my daily painting.  Click here to see a YouTube video of the 2010 Artist Colony experience.  The Paint Out also continued, due to strong relationships among the artists and the popularity with the public.  We especially loved having interactions with the public, at our exhibit located at the Gettysburg Railroad Station, especially when they led to sales of our artwork (click here for a few photos!).  I was fully immersed and enriched by both experiences.

Master Artist Lisa Egeli paints on Lincoln Square, 2010 Artist Colony

Some of my fellow artists have also summarized what it’s like to paint in Gettysburg:

“The artists have inspired me, challenged me and nurtured me as an artist.  Last year (2010), this event was one of the best of my life.  It lived up to that lofty height again this year (2011).”

-Cindy Downs

“I was honored and privileged to have been one of the artists selected to participate in the inaugural Artist Colony at Gettysburg in 2010.  It was a wonderful experience that had a profound impact on my direction as an artist… I was so excited to have been selected again to participate in 2011; it was as though I won the lotto twice!… This year’s Colony experience was a very worthwhile experience which I will treasure.  I am very grateful to have been a part of this exceptional opportunity again for a second year and I wish for its continued success.”

-Ann Crostic

Click here to apply to Gettysburg Festival’s 2012 Artist Colony, Plein Air Paint Out or (new for 2012!) the Quick Draw.  I know artists who apply in 2012 will be embraced by the warm artist community that’s developed over the past four years.  Prepare yourself for an incredible experience!

By Karen Hendricks, PR/Marketing Director

The Festival’s new Executive Director, Beth Kirby, has spent the majority of her career working in the non-profit sector, primarily because “it’s a joy to work with people, especially people who are passionate about what they are doing.”

However, she still wasn’t quite prepared for the incredible buzz and electricity she felt running through the town of Gettysburg and created by the non-profit Gettysburg Festival during June of 2010.  Brand new to the community, she was thrilled to meet people involved in various Festival events, and was caught up in their excitement so much so that, as she began settling into the community, she also began anticipating the 2011 Gettysburg Festival.

“Last June, 2011, I took it all in, and I enjoyed the art scene, live music and outdoor venues,” said Kirby.  “All of the events, and all of the people involved in the events, were overwhelmingly positive with great things to say about the Festival.  Everyone was unified in their dedication to the organization’s mission.”

That experience laid a great groundwork for what was to follow this fall – the naming of Kirby as the Festival’s new Executive Director.

“I see the Festival as a product of great value, offering something of unique value—the arts—to the community as well as our visitors.  The challenge with any non-profit is to retain and even gain support while in a down economy.  Without state and federal funding, the Gettysburg Festival is not unlike other arts organizations who now are laying the groundwork of sponsorship and support in order to continue offering artistic events of quality. Personally, I feel that our Friends of the Festival membership is a vital and exciting form of support, offering people the chance to be a part of something they love and believe in.  The Festival also gives volunteers the amazing opportunity to be a part of the Festival and energize the town through the arts.”

As the Festival gears up for its banner 5th Annual Gettysburg Festival, June 8-17, 2012, Kirby looks forward to forging new friendships and partnerships.  “I’m not going to be behind my desk every day,” she explained.  “I’m going to be out in the community, meeting people and getting involved.”  Welcome, Beth Kirby.

By Karen Hendricks, Festival PR/Marketing Director

By now, statistics sadly show that many Americans have made New Year’s Resolutions that have already been broken or abandoned.  So I would like to propose making a new, New Year’s Resolution:  Make the arts a priority in your life in 2012.

I’m inspired to say this by two wonderful and generous women I met recently.  Both women made and contributed amazing, beautiful gingerbread houses to our Gingerbread House Celebration last December.  But perhaps even more stunning… the motivation that inspired them both.

Melissa Thomas, Koney Island Konfections

Melissa Thomas and Sarah Dutton are both mothers who have enjoyed bringing their children to our annual Children’s Arts Fair at the Gettysburg Festival.  They both mentioned how extremely thankful they felt, as their children created unique art projects, danced to musical performances, listened and participated in interactive story-telling and enjoyed countless other hands-on activities at several of our free Children’s Arts Fairs.  That thankfulness drove them both to create gingerbread houses and “give back” to our non-profit organization with gifts of gingerbread.

Sometimes those thankful, magical holiday moments are gone with the turn of the calendar to January.  But the Festival staff remains incredibly touched by these two women and their stories, especially since their spark of inspiration came from their children’s joy.  You see, the mission behind our Children’s Arts Fair is to “inspire a life-long appreciation and love of the arts.”  Apparently we’re reaching parents with this message too!

I encourage you to rediscover a connection to the arts in 2012, whether it’s actually playing music or creating artwork, or whether it’s listening to new types of music, visiting an art exhibit, or even becoming a “foodie”—all of which you can do at the upcoming Gettysburg Festival, by the way!  Finding the time to incorporate the arts into your life will enrich your life in a multitude of ways.  We can attest to that, first-hand, at Gettysburg Festival.

Inside View: Sarah Dutton's gingerbread greenhouse