A ‘plein’ way to get outdoors

Youngsters take part in outdoors art project

Joey Tuccini, 12, of Marquette sits behind the Marquette Maritime Museum on Monday in a special plein air painting session. Youths had the opportunity to choose from outdoor subjects such as the museum, Marquette Lighthouse, Lake Superior and other attractions. (Journal photo by Christie Mastric)

MARQUETTE — Outdoors art for youth can be more than simply drawing chalk stick figures on a sidewalk.

Like adults, they can take part in an idyllic kind of outside art: plein air painting.

A creative community called the Artists Network defines plein air painting as an artistic term used by artists to describe outdoor painting, capturing views and landscapes in natural light. “En plain air,” it said, is a French expression that means “in the open air.”

The youngsters who showed up Monday behind the Marquette Maritime Museum and LIghthouse for a children’s plein air painting session — with social distancing protocols in place — weren’t speaking a lot of French, but they had the beautiful Lake Superior landscape from which to draw inspiration.

Meghan Soucy, assistant director for the Marquette Maritime Museum and an art teacher with the event’s collaborator, the Liberty Children’s Art Project, helped run the festivities.

She said the event usually is part of the city of Marquette’s Art Week, but this year it was a solo endeavor due to Art Week being canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Another partner was the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.

The pandemic, however, didn’t keep the youths from picking up brushes to get creative outdoors.

“It’s to get kids outside,” Soucy said of the plein air event. “It’s to get them looking at the space here. There are so many historical buildings. We’ve got the old life-saving service building there, captain’s quarters, the lighthouse, the Coast Guard, the maritime museum.”

Another goal, she said, was to get them to “paint from life” and paint what was in front of them.

The youngsters had many visually appealing options for artistic subject matter. Of course, one of the main attractions in the area is the red Marquette Lighthouse. However, they also had a view of the rocks that jutted into Lake Superior as well as the big lake itself and any boat that passed.

There were beachgoers, of course, but their art focused on the area’s history and natural setting.

Soucy said the finished artwork will be on display in the windows at the life-saving service building.

“It’s a nice reminder that all these buildings are connected in history and in art,” Soucy said.

LCAP Director Carol Phillips was on the beach on Monday to oversee the workshop, which fortunately took place on a warm, sunny day.

She didn’t want the coronavirus to get in the way of kids experiencing art in the outdoors.

“What we didn’t want to do is just give up and not do it,” Phillips said. “We also knew we could do it safely.”

A limited number of participants were set up far apart enough to conduct the workshop in such a manner.

“I couldn’t be happier to be out here and seeing it,” Phillips said. “It’s great. People have been cooped up for way too long and not have very many outside activities, probably. I think it’s just amazing and wonderful.”

Two Marquette kids, Anna Tuccini, 10, and her brother, Joey Tuccini, 12, sat among the rocks and surf to create their paintings.

Joey compared indoors and outdoors painting.

“When you’re outside, there’s more stuff to paint,” he said.

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net


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