The Driggs Plein Air Festival, now in its eighth year, is developing a reputation among regional artists and collectors, said festival director Alison Brush.
Throughout the week of July 28 to Aug. 2, 75 artists produced paintings and sketches, sometimes up to three per day. Those artists were not only drawn by the obvious appeal of the valley: beautiful mountains and scenic farm fields; a bustling cultural scene with free music, the rodeo, and the farmers market; plenty of recreational opportunities; and workshops with experienced plein air artists. They also flocked to the festival because art has a history of selling here.
Brush estimated that art sales from the six-day festival surpassed a record-breaking $50,000. Around 600 paintings, the majority of which were priced between $50 and $800, moved through the Teton Arts gallery and the tent sale. The range of prices and styles mean that first time local art buyers and art collectors alike can find affordable pieces and art from both emerging and established names.
Sales aren’t the only way that artists can profit from the week; there were contests with cash prizes throughout the festival in addition to a final competition. Some pieces were eligible for entry into daily quick draw contests, to be voted upon by the public or judges. At the end of the week artists chose three pieces from their body of work and those pieces were judged by renowned plein air artists John Poon and Scott Christensen, who on Friday night awarded Best of Show, first through fourth place, and four honorable mentions. Artists and the public also selected their favorite pieces.
With the increasing notoriety of Driggs Plein Air has come an upswing in the quality of the art, Brush said; every year she sees a higher general caliber of pieces, and the people who come to judge and buy the work also see and appreciate that.
A percentage of plein art sales go to the nonprofit Downtown Driggs Association to support year-round arts and culture programs in the valley. This year the art exhibit and sale has been extended to Aug. 16, so stop by the gallery in the Driggs City Center any time Monday through Saturday 9-5, to view and purchase art by local and regional artists.