A Picturesque Setting for Plein Air

by Apr 25, 2024Events, Online Exclusives, Southport Oak Island

Up Your Arts’ Southport Plein Air Festival returns to Downtown Southport from May 2 to 4.

Artists from all over the East Coast are returning to Southport from Thursday, May 2 through Saturday, May 4 for the 2024 Southport Plein Air Festival sponsored by local nonprofit Up Your Arts and the City of Southport. The three-day event will kick off with more than 70 artists painting the city from virtually every angle and perspective.

French impressionist painters began plein air or open-air style painting in the late 1800s. The Southport Plein Air Festival began in 2014 and has grown in popularity every year since. Its success has made Southport a fixture among plein air groups and individual artists across North Carolina and beyond.

Southport provides the perfect backdrop for painting outdoors, with its views of the Cape Fear River and Intracoastal Waterway, historic buildings and streetscapes, majestic live oaks, beautiful birds and yacht basin with its colorful buildings and picturesque boats.

Southport Plein Air Festival

Two early evening receptions on May 2 and 3 will welcome the artists to Southport and allow them to meet and interact with their fellow artists. Haven of Southport, 307 N. Howe Street, will host them on Thursday, May 2, from 4 to 6 pm. This happy hour event is open to the public. Frying Pan, 319 W. Bay Street, will welcome them to a private event on Friday, May 3, from 4 to 6 pm.

Residents and visitors are encouraged to interact with the artists when they see them out and about, as Southport’s welcoming atmosphere is one of the reasons for the event’s annual success.

A survey of last year’s attendees showed painters loved the Southport hospitality and the small-town feel.

The final day of the festival, Saturday, May 4, is Kids Plein Air, featuring family-friendly events, musical entertainment and food trucks in Keziah Memorial Park at the corner of W. Moore and S. Lord streets.

Award-winning storyteller and author Joan Leotta will engage with children of all ages, telling a variety of tales throughout the day beginning at 10 am. Back by popular demand, local educator Ginger Hedblom will engage children throughout the day, leading them through a variety of art projects.

Southport NC Plein Air

Grants from the North Carolina Arts Council via Brunswick Arts Council are underwriting a brand-new event for adults taking place in Keziah Park simultaneously on Saturday. As many as 12 artisan craftspeople will be on hand to demonstrate their specialties — from fiber arts to mosaics to resin pouring — and instruct audience members in DIY art projects.

At 3 pm, guests will be asked to leave Keziah Park for one hour while the plein air artists set up for the much-anticipated wet paint sale, the highlight of the festival.

Everyone is welcome back to the park at 4 pm to view and purchase the beautiful paintings created over the three festival days.

After the sale, awards will be given out for the judge’s favorites. The recipient of the People’s Choice Award has the honor of having his or her work featured on t-shirts and other graphics promoting the 2025 Plein Air Festival.

A new addition to the program this year is a raffle to win a painting created during last year’s festival by People’s Choice winner Brian Murphy. Raffle tickets will be available for purchase throughout the day on Saturday. The raffle drawing will take place at 6 pm following the awards ceremony. The winner does not need to be present to win.

Want to go?
Southport Plein Air Festival
May 2 to 4
Southport, NC
Information: upyourarts.org/southport-art-spaces/festivals/southport-plein-