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Making art in the open air

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Making art in the open airhas been on display this week in and around Saginaw.

More than 50 artists have been busy sitting in parks and along busy roads painting street scenes, lake shores and quiet parks in several mid-Michigan counties.   

It’s all part of the Great Lakes Bay En Plein Air festival.

En Plein Air is a French expression meaning simply “in the open air.”   Artists painting en plein air are encouraged to paint what they see.  

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
More than 50 artists are taking part in the Great Lakes Bay En Plein Air festival this week in Saginaw

Watercolor artist Robert Fionda spent part of Wednesday sitting in Saginaw’s Japanese Cultural Center.   He says painting outside, with changing shadows and other distractions outside the the artist’s control, is a challenge.

“It has a lot to do I think helping an artist to train his eye,” says Fionda.

Stacey Gannon is the director of the Saginaw Art Museum, which is hosting the competition.

She says painting en plein air challenges artists and exposes people to artists at work.

“And it’s quite something to watch a painter,” says Gannon.

This year’s competition included parts of Saginaw, Bay and Isabella counties.

Gannon hopes to expand the Great Lakes Bay En Plein Air festival over the next few years to include the entire state of Michigan. 

The festival wraps up Sunday in Saginaw.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.