Our Town: Gwinnett CountyArt contest highlights county parks

Gwinnett Parks Plein Air Challenge opening reception

3 to 7 p.m. Sept. 14; awards ceremony 5 p.m.

Tannery Row Art Colony, 554 W. Main St., Buford


Information: (770) 904-0572; www.tanneryrowartistscolony.com

For the last six months, 25 members of the Tannery Row Artists Colony in Buford have been roaming Gwinett County, setting up their easels and capturing the natural beauty of the area’s parks. It’s been a dual-process, one that not only gave the artists a chance to do what they love best - paint the landscape in its natural habitat - but also produced an exhibit that may just surprise people.

It certainly was an eye-opener for artist Donna Biggee of Snellville.

“I have three kids, and I didn’t know anything but where the baseball and football fields were,” she said. “Until I went out to paint them, I had no idea some of these parks existed.”

The artists teamed with representatives of the county’s Parks Department to come up with the “Plein Air Challenge.” Together they assembled a list of parks to paint, then twice a week, teams of artists fanned out to various locations, set up their canvases and got to work. The participants were then invited to submit two of their best works for judging; the winners will be selected at a free reception Sept. 14.

“We painted what we saw, and it was wonderful,” said Biggee, an oils and pastels painter who has been part of the Tannery Row Colony for six years. “It’s called plein air or fresh air painting that offers an immediacy and sense of place you can’t get in a studio. Most of us don’t like to paint by ourselves, but being outside with other people around you gives you energy to paint.”

Biggee painted at four parks, including McDaniel Farm Park behind Gwinnett Place Mall where she was joined by 13 fellow artists. One of them was Nancy Nowak, a Suwanee resident who had not painted for years until she decided to take it up again five years ago.

“McDaniel Farm was one of those great little areas that people do not know about,” said Nowak. “I also fell in love with Vines Gardens [near Loganville]. It has a lovely park area, a lake and a gazebo. There are so many beautiful places around Gwinnett County. It was so nice to paint a few of these places so other people will discover them.”

On Sept. 14, the artists will showcase some of their finished works during a wine and cheese reception at the colony. Judges will award about $1,200 in prizes to the top three entries. In addition, artist studios and galleries will be open. The paintings will remain on display through Oct. 13.

To promote the exhibit, artists will be painting in person 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at four Gwinnett County library branches. Drop by to watch experts at work at the Hamilton Mill, Norcross, Lilburn and Lawrenceville locations.

Each Saturday, we shine a spotlight on a local neighborhood, city or community. To suggest a place for us to visit, e-mail H.M. Cauley at hm_cauley@yahoo.com or call 770- 744-3042.