Celebrating Visual Arts in Northern Door County

The Hardy Gallery in Ephraim is one of the partnering galleries in the Plein Air Festival.

The Hardy Gallery in Ephraim is one of the partnering galleries in the Plein Air Festival.

Driving through Ephraim in summer is a bit like traveling through a mixed-media art piece. The gentle background is the prettiest town in the Midwest, the white harbor-facing homes and hotels gleaming in the sunlight. Eagle harbor sparkles, speckled with white sailboats rocking gently against their moorings. Juxtaposed with the old-fashioned peace and prettiness are signs of modernity: children clutching brightly-colored inflatable creatures, shepherded across the road by parents in large sun hats. Cyclists pedaling high-end road bicycles clad in sleek biking jerseys somehow maneuvering through the village faster than the cars. Tourists loving the view and attempting to capture it, pausing mid-step to smile for selfies on their smartphones. The slightly chaotic scene is one that evokes the joy of the season.

Also striving to capture this vista are the artists who take part in the annual Door County Plein Air Festival. The last week of July, carefully-vetted expert outdoor artists set up shop throughout Door County to sketch or paint their impressions. Their easels smack of earlier days so much so that they blend in with the historic surroundings and are sometimes difficult to notice. Artists from across the United States are posted outside partnering galleries and along the waterfront in Ephraim and throughout northern Door County. They work throughout the day or several days, rain or shine, and pause to talk with passers-by. At the end of the week the original paintings are sold in a gala auction. Many of the festival’s components are free and open to the public. Amateur painters can even register to take part in one of several “Quick Paints” alongside expert plein air artists. The Plein Air Festival is a staple of the Door County summer season.

Distance from the Blacksmith Inn: Varies (driveable in 2-20 minutes); the festival takes place in Sister Bay, Fish Creek, Ephraim, Egg Harbor and Baileys Harbor

Pre-registration required: Recommended for exclusive festival events and the “Palette Pass,” which gains entry to most exclusive events

Cost: Many events are free, others range $10-80, Palette Pass is $225

 

The peninsula herself is home to plenty of fabulous visual artists, from painters to sketch artists to stained glass creators. Each August the village of Sister Bay showcases their incredible talents at the Door County Festival of Fine Arts. Celebrating this year on Saturday, August 10, the festival will include over 25 local artists set up to demonstrate their craft. Many will have their original works for sale as well.

Distance from the Blacksmith Inn: Driveable in 12 minutes (8.9 miles)

Pre-Registration required: None

Cost: Free to attend

 

Labor Day weekend artists create in Gills Rock. The Gills Rock Coffee Shop plays host to several dozen visual artists who create in a variety of ways, including collage, oil painting, jewelry, mosaic and clay. Gills Rock Art Fest is a unique small art festival that encourages visitors to engage with local and regional artists.

Distance from the Blacksmith Inn: Driveable in 25 minutes (18.6 miles)

Pre-Registration required: None

Cost: Free to attend

 

After a day or two of learning about plein air painting and browsing one-of-a-kind art pieces, you’ll need a room that embodies the art-enthusiast’s spirit. Check the Blacksmith Inn’s availability for your stay.

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