En Plein Air Texas Finale Set for Friday and Saturday


SAN ANGELO, TX — The annual Art Collectors’ Stampede is set for Friday night that is the seminal event of the 8-day annual En Plein Air Texas (EPAT) painting competition in San Angelo. The Fort Concho Stables, 210 Henry O/ Flipper St., are open starting at 6 p.m. Friday where those who want first dibs on paintings created during the 2022 En Plein Air event can pay a $100 admission fee to be first to view and purchase the new art.

Here are the award-winning paintings at last year's 2021 EPAT event.

En Plein Air Texas, founded in 2014, is in its ninth year. For the first year, chairwoman Barbara Rallo and her co-chair Treva Boyd seeded the event by fundraising just $13,000. Over the past 8 years, the event has averaged $200,000 in annual revenue to the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts. Of all of the sales during the contest, 60 percent of the proceeds go to the artists and the remainder to the museum. The money raised is used to underwrite the museum’s acclaimed children’s programs. While the sale of the paintings created during this year’s En Plein Air Texas constitute most of the attraction for top artists to travel here for the competition, Rallo and Boyd raise just under $100,000 for special cash prizes and for event operations — such as in-kind donations for catered food, free lodging, and venues for sponsored events.

En Plein Air events are a national sensation. In the mid-1800’s, Impressionist artists began painting on location, or ‘En Plein Air’ – a French term meaning ‘in the open air’.  Prior to the invention of the metal tube in the 1840s, most landscapes were painted in the artists’ studios as they had no way to store or transport their hand-mixed paints. Impressionism is one of the best-known art movements of the past two centuries. It began to flourish as artists around the world left their studios to study the light and atmosphere in nature and paint on site with their newly created technology: transportable tubes of paint.   Today artists seek to capture that same intriguing light and shadow outdoors, and gather in ‘plein air’ events across the country, turning ordinary scenes into extraordinary works of art. San Angelo has captured the ‘Texas’ part of the En Plein Air movement. More here.

Artists wanting to compete are selected by a juror. This year, 34 artists were selected (the list) by Michael R. Grauer. He is a Kansas native and SMU grad in art history with a master’s in art history from West Texas A&M University. Grauer worked at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, before becoming curator of art and Western heritage and associate director for curatorial affairs at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon, from 1987 to 2018. He joined the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City in September 2018 as the McCasland Chair of Cowboy Culture and Curator of Cowboy Collections & Western Art. He has curated over 150 exhibitions on Western art, culture, and history and authored 65 publications. Mr. Grauer lectures on art, history, and culture across the American West. 

Selected artists arrived in San Angelo before Oct. 21, in time for four days of painting on 18 area ranches. On Monday there was a reception at the museum and for the rest of the week the artists have set up their easels around the city painting self-chosen subjects. Thursday, the artists traveled to a ranch owned by Jennifer and Tim Crutchfield for a “field ranch experience.”

All the while, new paintings of subjects in and around San Angelo have been created that will be unveiled Friday night at the ‘Stampede.’ Artists earn income two ways. First, the artists receive 60 percent of the proceeds of the sale of their paintings. Second, there are $35,000 in prizes that will be awarded by the panel of jurors.

Saturday, the works of the EPAT artists will remain on display at the Stables for anyone to view and enjoy between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Patrons can continue to purchase unsold paintings. Admission to the Stables is free on Saturday.

On Saturday, while the paintings from the competition are exhibited at the Stables, the artists are invited to set their easels up at the 3rd Annual Dia De Los Muertos Celebration at the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts plaza during the morning. The “paint out” will generate more art for the exhibition. By 1:30 p.m., smaller paintings called “Mini Pearls of the Conchos” that are created Saturday morning will be on display and for sale at the Stables.

In conjunction with the Dia Celebration on Saturday, EPAT will distribute free art packets for children and hold an all-day art scavenger hunt sponsored by the San Angelo Cultural Affairs Council and the San Angelo area Sonic Drive-Ins. The children’s activity will be at the museum.

Also at the Stables on Saturday, at 2 p.m. there will be a judges’ talk. This is when awards judge Michael Obermeyer will showcase each of the EPAT prize winners and share his reasons for selecting them. 

Between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., some artists will offer pop-up demonstrations as they paint subjects in and around the Stables.

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