Artists Paint Conservation Lands in ‘Paint the Shore’

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Artists gather with VES Land Trust staff and board members for a kickoff reception in early October. Left to right: Sarah Morgan, Carol Upshur, Arthur Upshur, Meriwether Payne, Susie Brown, Timmy Brown, Hali Plourde-Rogers, Laura McGowan, and Allison Swan. Photo by Susan Harris.

By Stefanie Jackson – The Virginia Eastern Shore Land Trust (VESLT) held its biennial Paint the Shore event this fall, and mixed it up by inviting student artists from Nandua Middle School to participate.

“Paint the Shore is an opportunity to foster partnerships and community connection through art and land conservation,” explained VESLT Executive Director Hali Plourde-Rogers.

A group of 13 artists spent the last month painting on conservation lands under easement with VESLT, culminating in a Nov. 12 reception and art exhibit that ran through Nov. 21 at the Historic Palace Theatre and Lemon Tree Gallery, in Cape Charles.

The artists had the opportunity to paint on conserved lands that are not usually open to the public, and through the exhibit “the community could engage with the artists and with the conservation lands depicted in their work,” Plourde-Rogers said.

Paint the Shore is a plein air event, meaning paintings are done outdoors in natural light. The term plein air comes from the French phrase “en plein air,” which translates literally to “in the open air.”

A new addition to the program this year was participation by eighth grade students at Nandua Middle School.

It was Plourde-Rogers’ idea to contact Nandua Middle School art teacher Sarah Clark, who was a Virginia Art Education Association teacher of the year in 2020 and is known for art-based community outreach.

The student participants included Ian Lewis, William Norman, Jaqueline Diaz-Salamanca, Chris Lopez-Perez, Kymani Walker, Nicolette Edwards, Jazyiah Byrd, Luis Gomez-Lopez, Jordan Maldonado-Vargas, Destiny Garris, Anthony Lee, Meghan Taylor, Marzhia Johnson, and Jalien Gutierrez.

Students Nicolette Edwards and Jazyiah Byrd tied for the People’s Choice award for best student artist, and runner-up was Ian Lewis.

The students painted outside on the Nandua Middle School campus. Other event sites included The Nature Conservancy’s Brownsville Preserve, in Nassawadox, and private properties from Accomac to Eastville, which are under conservation easements through VESLT. Among the those sites were Cherry Grove Farm, near Eastville, and The Folly, near Accomac.

Participating adult artists included Margaret Bradach, Sarah Brown Clark, Sharon Devlin, Karen Fortier, Bobbi Gunn, Carrie Jacobson, Cheryl Cochran Leonard, Ted Leonard, Laura McGowan, Sarah Morgan, Clelia Cardano Sheppard, Ellen Sinclair, and Allison Swan.

Laura McGowan won the People’s Choice award and Ted Leonard won the Artist’s Choice award at the Nov. 12 reception.

Paint the Shore is held every two years, and the next one is already planned for 2023; however, it has been so successful that it could eventually become an annual event, Plourde-Rogers said.