‘Plein Air Smokies’ showcases talented artists and beauty of the Smokies, Sept. 24-30, 2023

September 20, 2023

by Julie Dodd

Plein Air Smokies 2023 logo

Make your plans now to be part of ‘Plein Air Smokies,’ which will be held in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Sept. 24-30. The event will bring 20 nationally acclaimed artists to paint the Smokies “en plein air,” which is French for “in the open air.”

The weeklong event offers park visitors a chance to observe artists at work and then have the opportunity to acquire unique paintings of the Smokies.

“This event celebrates the longstanding tradition of artists capturing and sharing the beauty of the Smokies in a way that meaningfully connects people to this special place,” said Dana Soehn, president and CEO of Friends of the Smokies.

Proceeds from ‘Plein Air Smokies’ will help fund projects and programs that support the park’s efforts to preserve the historic and natural resources of the Smokies while providing a safe, enjoyable experience to millions of annual visitors. Last year’s plein air event raised more than $270,000 for the park.

“Plein Air Smokies is a genuine collaboration between artists, the local community, art collectors, business sponsors and individual supporters,” Soehn said. “It’s a unique way to experience the Smokies and support efforts to ensure a healthy future for our park for decades to come.”

Featured Plein Air Artists

For ‘Plein Air Smokies’ 2023, artists were selected through a juried process. More than 100 artists across the country applied. 

The featured 2023 ‘Plein Air Smokies’ artists are: Marc Anderson, Suzie Baker, John Caggiano, Henry Coe, Vlad Duchev, John Eiseman, Martin Geiger, John Guernsey, Charlie Hunter, Shelby Keefe, Christine Lashley, Chuck Marshall, Charles Newman, Kathie Odom, Karen Philpott, Richard Sneary, Teresa Townsend, Richie Vios, Stephen Wysocki and Jing Zhao.

Student Artists

Student artists painted ‘en plein air’ at Elkmont on Sept. 12, 2023.

This year marked the introduction of an exciting new initiative involving students from Fulton High School and Gatlinburg-Pittman High School. These students had the opportunity to participate in a pilot education program, which involved spending a day at Elkmont immersed in the world of art. Under the guidance and instruction of experienced plein air artists, they learned techniques specific to outdoor painting and created their own unique pieces. Their work, along with paintings from our nationally-recognized featured artists, will be available for purchase at Clayton Center for the Arts in Maryville, Tenn., at the ticketed Collectors Soiree and Sale, Friday, Sept. 29 and public sale, Sept. 30, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Local & Regional Artists

Any artist over the age of 14 is invited to compete in the Quick Draw the morning of Sept. 30 in Maryville, starting at the Amphitheater at Jack Greene Park. An estimated 100 artists, including our featured Plein Air Smokies artists, will converge on the streets of Maryville to compete for thousands of dollars in prizes during a 2-hour painting period from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. Afterward, their freshly-painted artworks will be judged by Marc Hanson, the Plein Air Smokies competition judge. All Quick Draw paintings will be available for purchase at the amphitheater.

Schedule of events


artists painting in Cades Cove
Artists will paint in Cades Cove on Monday. Photo by Robin Jenness

Artists Paint
Painting in various location in Great Smoky Mountains National Park


Artists Paint: Sunrise – 3 p.m.
Painting in Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Cades Cove Loop Road, Townsend, TN 37882


Artists Paint: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Painting in Elkmont, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Elkmont Club Cabin # J, Club House, Jakes Creek Rd B, Gatlinburg, TN 37738

9 a.m. through noon: Marc Anderson, Suzie Baker, Henry Coe, John Eiseman, Kathie Odom
Noon through 3 p.m.: Vlad Duchev, Christine Lashley, Charles Newman, Richard Sneary, Richie Vios


Artists Paint: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Painting in Elkmont, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Elkmont Club Cabin # J, Club House,Jakes Creek Rd B, Gatlinburg, TN 37738

 9 a.m. – noon: John Caggiano, Charlie Hunter, Shelby Keefe, Chuck Marshall, Jing  Zhao
Noon– 3 p.m.: Teresa Townsend, Martin Gieiger, John Guernsey, Karen Philpott, Stephen Wysocki


Artists Paint
Painting in various locations in Great Smoky Mountains National Park


Collectors Soiree & Sale: 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Clayton Center for the Arts on the Maryville College campus
502 E Lamar Alexander Pkwy, Maryville, TN 37804
Tickets must be purchased for this event.

The Collectors Soiree provides participants the opportunity to view the artists’ works from the week and to purchase paintings before the public sale Saturday. An awards presentation will be held, naming the top paintings created during the week. The artist whose painting is selected as “Best in Show” will receive an invitation for Plein Air Smokies 2024.

Hors d’oeuvres, beverages and music by the Dogwood Strings will add to the festive event.

Patron Society

New this year, the Patron Society will offer additional opportunities for members to interact one-on-one with artists throughout the week. Patron Society members will enjoy a VIP Luncheon with the artists at Elkmont. The luncheon will include a special program with National Park experts who will talk about the park’s art history.  In addition, Patron Society members will be featured in the Artist & Event Guidebook and admitted to the Collectors Soiree & Sale.


artist at Quick Draw 2022
Artists will have two hours to paint for the Plein Air Competition in Maryville on Saturday, September 30.

Quick Draw, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Theater in the Park (Amphitheater at Jack Greene Park), 325 S Court St, Maryville, TN

Friends of the Smokies will host a Quick Draw Competition and Art Sale held in Maryville. This event includes a ‘plein air’ competition, exhibition and sales. It’s sponsored by Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts.

The 20 Plein Air Smokies artists will participate in the Quick Draw Competition. The Quick Draw also is open to anyone over the age of 14 who registers for the competition. The paintings will be judged in two categories – invited artists and open division.

The event is scheduled for Saturday morning, with the Quick Draw Competition taking place from 9 to 11 a.m., followed by awards presented at 11:30 a.m. and the Art Sale from noon to 2 p.m. The Theater in the Park will serve as the hub for registration, the competition, and the art sale. Artists are encouraged to paint throughout Downtown Maryville.

Artist registration can be completed online in advance or on Saturday morning between 7:30 a.m. and 8:45 a.m.

The Quick Draw Competition winner will receive an invitation to join next year’s Plein Air Smokies event.


Public Art Sale: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Clayton Center for the Arts on the Maryville College campus
502 E Lamar Alexander Pkwy, Maryville, TN 37804

All artwork not sold at Friday’s Soiree will be available for purchase at the Public Art Sale. Admission is free and open to the public.

For more information, check the Plein Air Smokies website and follow Plein Air Smokies on Facebook or Instagram. Check for the hashtag #pleinairsmokies. If you have questions, please contact Lauren@friendsofthesmokies.org

‘Plein Air Smokies’ presented by