Patron Society provides immersive Plein Air Smokies experiences

August 15, 2023

by Julie Dodd

‘Plein Air Smokies,’ will once again bring 20 nationally acclaimed artists to paint “en plein air” (outdoors) throughout the national park, Sept. 24-27. These one-of-a-kind paintings will be available for purchase first at the ticketed Collectors Soiree & Sale, Friday Sept. 29, then at the public sale Sept. 30. 

New this year, the Patron Society will offer additional opportunities to interact one-on-one with artists throughout the week through behind-the-scenes experiences. These immersive experiences with the artists include a VIP Luncheon and special program with National Park experts in Elkmont about the roots of art in park on September 26 and 27, 2023.

“Participants are in for a treat like no other – a unique chance to engage one-on-one with acclaimed artists, share a luncheon, and delve into the stories that shape their captivating creations,” Director of Philanthropy Lauren Gass said. “They also will have the opportunity to spend quality time with park experts who will unravel the unique story of the landscape, enriching their understanding of its depth and history.”

In addition, members of the Patron Society will be featured in the Artist & Event Guidebook and admitted to the Collectors Soiree & Sale—an exclusive opportunity to preview and acquire paintings before the public sale. Owning one of these original works of art will provide a lasting memory of your special Smokies experience.

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.

Suzi Baker painting the Little River
Suzi Baker painting the Little River during Plein Air in the Smokies 2022.

Patron Society immersive experiences at Elkmont

Elkmont, a historic section of the park, was a summer vacation retreat before the park was established. The artists can paint alongside the Little River or paint the historic summer cottages which were recently restored by the Friends-supported Forever Places crew. Patron Society members will be able to watch the artists as they work and have the opportunity to talk with the them during a VIP luncheon.

This special VIP luncheon will be hosted in the Appalachian Clubhouse in the Elkmont Historic District. Park Ranger Brad Free will be the luncheon speaker, sharing the special history of Elkmont.

“Plein Air Smokies Patron Society members will be able to immerse themselves in an unparalleled experience amidst the beauty of our Great Smoky Mountains with this behind-the-scenes opportunity,” Gass said.

Collectors Soiree

In addition to the behind-the-scenes experiences, Patron Society membership also includes a ticket to the Collectors Soiree and a $250 credit towards a painting. The Collectors Soiree will be held at the Clayton Center for the Arts on the Maryville College campus, Friday, Sept. 29.

The exclusive evening will include viewing the artists’ paintings from the week, an awards presentation, and the opportunity to purchase paintings. Live music, hors d’oeuvres and beverages will add to the festive event. The limited availability tickets for the Patron Society are $500 for an individual and $1,000 for a couple.

Note that individual tickets may be purchased for $250 to attend just the Collectors Soiree. The ticket price may be credited towards the purchase of one painting.

Tickets are available now online.

Patron Society Members to be recognized

Patron Society members will be listed in the Artist and Event Guidebook.

“The Patron Society member names will proudly be printed on all event programs, identifying them as a part of the Patron Society and as supporters who have invested in the artists’ endeavors to capture and convey the park’s extraordinary essence through their artistry,” Gass said.

Bill Farnsworth receives Best in Show from
Bill Farnsworth received the Best in Show Award for Plein Air in the Smokies 2022. He received the award from (left to right) Doug and Melissa White of Toyota and Lexus of Knoxville (presenting sponsors of Plein Air in the Smokies), Former Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and First Lady Crissy Haslam (Honorary Chair of Plein Air in the Smokies). Photo by Joe Rentz

Artists in the park & ‘Quick Draw Competition’

artist painting in Cades Cove during Plein Air in the Smokies 2022
Artists for Plein Air Smokies will paint in Cades Cove on Monday, Sept. 24.

During the weeklong Plein Air Smokies event, artists will paint throughout the park. Artists will be in Cades Cove on Monday, Sept. 24 and at Elkmont, Sept. 25 and 26.

Friends of the Smokies will host a “Quick Draw Competition” and Art Sale in downtown Maryville, Tennessee, on Saturday, September 30. The art festival will include a plein air painting competition and the exhibiting and sale of the “Quick Draw” painting.

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.

See the Full Schedule

Plein Air Smokies Artists

For Plein Air Smokies 2023, artists were selected through a juried process. More than 100 artists across the country applied and 18 were selected for 2023.  The 18 will join last year’s “Best in Show” and “Quick Draw Competition” winners for a total of 20 participating artists.

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

Deepen your appreciation of the Smokies

“For those who hold a deep affection for the Smokies and possess an appreciation for the arts, being a member of the Patron Society offers a truly spectacular opportunity,” Gass said. “Being a part of the Patrons Society is an invitation to forge connections, deepen your appreciation of the Smokies, and foster a lasting bond between the magnificence of the Smokies and the transformative power of art.”

Go online to make your reservation to become a member of the Patron Society.

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