Open Air Arts festival returns to Melrose

Artist Frank Barone is shown painting outdoors in a previous Open Air Arts festival in Melrose. The 2013 event returns starting Saturday in Melrose.(Melrose Bay Art Gallery)

Published: Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 18, 2013 at 3:22 p.m.

On Saturday, the quaint and quiet town of Melrose will come alive as 45 artists from North Central Florida and beyond take to the streets for the seventh annual Open Air Arts festival. By the lakes in Melrose Bay Park, throughout Heritage Park, in the nearby butterfly farm and even in the yards of neighbors, these “en plein air” or “outdoor” artists will spend a week painting, molding and photographing pieces of the historic and naturally rich landscape surrounding them, giving the public a glimpse into an artist's process and the opportunity to purchase the pieces in a culminating event on March 23.


Open Air Arts

What: Seventh annual event with 45 artists painting on site
When: Artists working outdoors and demonstrations from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday; special events continue March 16, 20, 22 and 23.
Where: Artists will work in the streets of Historic Melrose and at Melrose Bay Park, Heritage Park and Greathouse Butterfly Farm. The special events take place at Melrose Bay Art Gallery, 103 State Road 26; Bellamy Road Fine Arts Gallery, 5910 Hampton St; Shake Rag Art and Culture Center, 882 State Road 21 North; and Gallery 26, 301 State Road 26.
Info: 475-3866 or

Saturday: Lakeside Music Festival, noon-9 p.m., Shake Rag Art and Culture Center, free.
March 20: Gong Concert, 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m., Gallery 26, $10 at the door.
March 22: Preview reception for Purchase Award Patrons, 6 p.m.-9 p.m,, Bellamy Road Fine Arts and Melrose Bay Art Gallery.
March 23: Landscape Painting Exhibition, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Gallery 26, free.
March 23: Art Sale and Exhibition from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. with a Gala Reception from 5 p.m.-9 p.m., Bellamy Road Fine Arts and Melrose Bay Art Gallery, free.

“There is a bit of magic as the community comes together to watch your process, guess what you're painting and ask questions about your work,” says artist Lyn Asselta, who fondly remembers a group of three little girls spending over an hour watching her paint in the middle of the Greathouse Butterfly Farm. “We have a chance to share what we do with others when the public stops by our easel to visit.”

Asselta, who uses pastels on sanded paper surfaces to create her pieces, hopes to focus her time painting her view of the line of Cyprus trees just past the lake and the Spanish moss that hangs from the Live Oak trees among other scenes.

“Melrose is such an amazing little community in that it almost takes you back 40 or 50 years ago,” says Asselta, who will travel from St. Augustine for the third year to participate in the event. “People drive down the highway and have no idea this wonderful community is just three blocks away.”

Harriet Huss, a founding member of the Melrose Bay Arts Gallery and member of the Open Air Arts Festival Steering Committee, says she expects to see hundreds of people walking from easel to easel on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. as they listen to the sounds of the Lakeside Music Festival from noon to 9 p.m. at the nearby Shake Rag Art and Cultural Center.

“The artists attending this event are the cream of the crop of plein air artists,” Huss says. “There is a real skill in being able to paint outside and embracing enough

spontaneity to adapt to changes in light and weather.”

While the natural beauty and historically rich architecture of Melrose lures artists to this event, they also return to the event each year because there is an excitement in being surrounding by and learning from fellow artists, she said.

“There is such a variety of artists that participate in the event as far as style and taste,” says Frank Barone, director of the Melrose Bay Art Gallery and member of the event's Steering Committee. “Artists are able to come together to learn from each other and share ideas.”

Participating in the event for his fifth time, Barone, who most enjoys painting from observation with a slant toward impressionist landscaping, said visitors at the event will be able to watch artists working with oil and acrylic paints, pastels, water colors and dry medium. Each artist will probably produce two to five pieces by the end of the week, he said.

“The artists at the Open Air Arts Festival typically do not display their work at outdoor community arts festivals,” Huss says. “This event is a really special way for people to see their work.”

On March 23, the public will have the opportunity to purchase the pieces, which will be on display in the Melrose Bay Arts Gallery and Bellamy Road Fine Arts, Huss says. Purchase Award Patrons — visitors who commit in advance to spend a certain dollar amount on the art — will have an exclusive opportunity to view and purchase the art at a dessert and wine reception on March 22 from 6 to 9 p.m.

“This town is so beautiful and very welcoming,” Barone says. “There is no end to what the artists can create from what they see in the area.”

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