The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia
Thursday, 26 October 2023 12:39

Friends of the Smokies recognizes national, regional and student artists with ‘Plein Air Smokies’ awards

Written by

Fulton Student with finished paintingsFulton High School students with finished paintings at Plein Air Smokies event.  Lauren Gass, Friends of the Smokies

More than 60 artists created one-of-a-kind paintings generating more than $319,000 to support Great Smoky Mountains National Park

MARYVILLE — Friends of the Smokies recently welcomed 80 artists to Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the 2nd Annual ‘Plein Air Smokies,’ an event that not only raises critical funds for the park, but also allows visitors to experience the on-site creation of park-inspired art. The event raised $319,000 in total revenue, including more than $167,000 in artwork sales.

“We are so grateful for this generation of talented artists who captured unique Smokies scenes that tell the story of the park today in much the same way as those early painters and photographers whose images inspired the creation of the park,” said Friends President Dana Soehn.

Twenty nationally acclaimed artists were selected from a juried pool of 100 artists. They spent the week creating 158 one-of-a-kind paintings in places like Cades Cove, Clingmans Dome, Newfound Gap Road and Elkmont. Artwork was judged by renowned Plein Air artist, Mark Hanson, who awarded the following six artists with special recognition: Best of Show, Charles Newman; Artists’ Choice/Body of Work, Kathie Odom; Best Use of Light, Marc Anderson; Best Water, Christine Lashley; Best Structure, Lindsay Richard Sneary; and Best Landscape, Richie Vios.

JY4A0035.jpgThe Quick Draw Competition and Art Sale was held in downtown Maryville on Saturday, September 30. The artists painted throughout Downtown Maryville for two hours before the paintings were judged and offered for sale. The Quick Draw Competition winner and the Plein Air Smokies featured artist recipient of the ‘Best in Show’ award among Plein Air Smokies artists both received an invitation to join next year’s ‘Plein Air Smokies’ event.  Lauren Gass, Friends of the Smokies

“It was such an honor to immerse myself in the iconic scenes of the Smokies and to interpret the feelings I experienced when viewing the craftsmanship of the early Appalachian Mountain settlers,” Newman said. 

Students from Fulton and Gatlinburg-Pittman high schools were also provided an opportunity to create plein air style paintings onsite at Elkmont after receiving instruction from professional artists. The sale of their artwork generated $2,000 in revenue to support park projects. The following students received awards:  1st Place Student Award: Ava Jensen from Gatlinburg-Pittman High School; 2nd Place Student Award, Rocio Valenzuela from Fulton High School; and 3rd Place Student Award Raven Walker from Gatlinburg-Pittman High School.

“I’m really grateful to be here and experience this because I can paint without stressing out too much because nature is relaxing me. I’m so grateful to take all these images in and put into a painting in my own perspective that I can choose because I can change it. This field trip is different from others because instead of learning and looking, I’m using my mind to take in the image and translate it in my head in an artistic way. Instead of just looking at it I actually get to create it,” said Fulton student Maria Elena Mendez Aquino.

Plein Air Smokies also provided opportunities for regional artists to participate in a live, two-hour ‘quick draw’ painting experience alongside the 20 juried artists in downtown Maryville. The following artists received awards at this event. In the juried artist category, Charlie Hunter won 1st Place, to be followed by John Guernsey in 2nd Place and Shelby Keefe in 3rd Place. In the open category, Susan Duke Waters won 1st Place, to be followed by Donna Brumbergs in 2nd Place and Alex Eisenzopf in 3rd Place.

The park has long been recognized as a place of inspiration for artists, and in turn, the art they produced then and now, helps inspire visitors to connect, care and practice stewardship. The presenting sponsor for the event was Toyota Knoxville and Lexus of Knoxville.  Plein Air Smokies was also sponsored by Anakeesta, Home Federal Bank, RT Lodge, Blount Partnership, Arrowmont, Vienna Coffee Company, The District Gallery, Plein Air Magazine and Maryville College. 

Best of Show, Charles NewmanBest of Show, Charles Newman.  Lauren Gass, Friends of the Smokies

For more information about how to be involved next year, please contact Lauren Gass at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Rate this item
(1 Vote)
Last modified on Wednesday, 01 November 2023 18:43