plein air comes to town

Mt. Lebanon’s outdoor arts scene has mostly been limited to kids and their sidewalk chalk but that’s about to change October 2 through 7, as the Mt. Lebanon Partnership presents Plein Air: Mt. Lebanon, a Neighborhood Celebration of the Arts. En Plein Air, which is French and translates to “in the open air,” is an outdoor art movement started in Europe in the early 19th century when portable easels and paint in tubes allowed artists to paint outside the studio.

Organized by Standish Boulevard resident and Plein Air artist David Csont in cooperation with the Partnership and Eric Milliron, Mt. Lebanon’s commercial districts manager, the festival and art sale has a palette of art-centered activities for the family.

“This is more like a sporting event,” says Csont, a principal and chief illustrator for Urban Design Associates. Modeled after the successful festival now in its eighth year in Easton, Maryland, where organizers sold $300,000 worth of paintings in three days last year, Plein Air will feature more than two dozen artists who will paint up to 10 pieces during the week. Everything will be for sale, and, yes, you can make requests for your neighborhood or your home in hopes that one of the artists will pick it.

While many towns that host Plein Air festivals are scenic tourist towns with waterfronts and café scenes, “Mt. Lebanon is rich in romantic European architecture,” Csont says. “Bird Park is full of a thousand different spots you could paint that would be gorgeous.”

On Monday, the artists will tour Mt. Lebanon and attend an orientation party. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, artists will fan out to paint in all parts of Mt. Lebanon. All work is submitted to jurist Ron Donoughe by 11 a.m., Friday. That night at 7 p.m., the public is invited to attend an opening gala in the municipal building where winners will be announced and an exhibition and sale will be held. Tickets will cost about $100 to $150 and will include music, food and wine, plus a $100 voucher toward a painting.

The sale continues through the weekend. Saturday also will be the Mt. Lebanon Paint-Out with artist demonstrations and kids activities all day. The day will conclude with a concert. Sunday wraps up the week with the final sales. Local gallery owners could extend the event by carrying paintings not sold by Sunday.

Prices for the art will likely run from about $400 to $1,500. The Partnership will retain 40 percent of sales to use for future Mt. Lebanon events, and 60 percent of the price goes to the artist.

The weekend also includes the Mt. Lebanon Sunrise Rotary’s annual Art in the Park in the Academy Avenue parking lot.