KEESEVILLE — If ADK Action is the painter and this North Country hamlet is the canvas, then the Keeseville Community Arts Festival is the masterpiece.
The three-day-long fest, hosted by the nonprofit and supported by several Keeseville-based businesses, runs from Friday, July 23 through Sunday, July 25 and promises more than 20 artsy activities, like art shows, downtown mural painting, a theatrical performance, live music, artwork showcasing familiar scenes and a tour of historic architecture.
“I think it will instill a great deal of pride and bring a real energy and vibrancy to the downtown during the festival,” ADK Action Executive Director Brittany Christenson said. “A lot of the locals here already know that exists in the community, but it’s events like this that really show us what a great group of people, what a great community this is.”
FROM PLEIN AIR
The festival is a spin-off of ADK Action’s former Keeseville Plein Air Festivals, which occurred annually from 2017 to 2019.
“Plein air,” a French term, translates to “outdoors.”
“It’s the practice and the art of being outside in the fresh air and painting a canvas with what you see in front of you,” Christenson explained. “It’s really tricky, because of lighting changes and precipitation changes — there are just so many factors. Sometimes your subject might even move or change; some plein air
painters really like to paint animals, for example.”
Past festivals welcomed 25 or so artists who painted scenes of Keeseville that later went on sale at a local gallery.
“Our reception downtown in the past has been absolutely packed, elbow to elbow,” Christenson said. “We’ve had some great comments from the community like, ‘Wow, I’ve never seen downtown Keeseville so packed,’ and, ‘I love living here, but it’s really cool to see other people appreciate how beautiful it is here.’”
But some community members admitted they did not known what “plein air” meant, leading ADK Action to make a name change, she said.
“We wanted to have a term that was more accessible and more inclusive.”
This year’s Keeseville Community Arts Festival is the first of its kind to coordinate with the variety of events happening hamlet-wide, of which plein air painting is just a fragment.
“When we decided to add the additional components,” Christenson said, “we thought ‘Community Arts’ really better captured the spirit and the broadening scope of the festival.”
ADK Action Tuesday welcomed 40 artists from across the Northeast region, including local ones from Keeseville, Peru and Saranac Lake, as well as some from the Hudson Valley, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, to partake in this year’s plein air painting.
The artists have since been busy at work throughout the hamlet, painting what they see.
“I saw artists set up painting the Wickham Marsh, which is a beautiful marsh in Keeseville right by the lake where there are lots of lily pads and wildlife,” Christenson said. “I also saw artists painting Mace Chasm Farm and outside of Ausable Brewing Company, so rolling hills and farm landscape. We have a lot of folks painting the beautiful architecture, as well as the Old Stone Mill and Ausable River-type scenes.”
By Friday’s Plein Air Special Preview Party, which begins at 6 p.m., Christenson expected some 120 of those paintings to hang for sale at 1719 Block Gallery on Front Street in Keeseville.
Festival activities are sorted into six categories: Art Shows, Mural, Theatre, Music, Youth Art and Architecture.
The fest itself is decentralized with events happening across Keeseville, so while the art shows and mural, being painted on the side of Adirondack Hardware and Rental in coordination with Outside Art: Plattsburgh Public Art Project, are downtown, the theatrical production of “Into the Woods” by Artistry Community Theatre is at the Keeseville Elk’s Lodge and live performers will put on shows on Highland and Mace Chasm roads.
“Everything is just spread out,” Christenson said. “We knew that we needed to provide festival goers with a map and some really clear instructions on everything that’s happening and how they can check it all out.”
That’s where the Arts Passport comes into play.
Attendees will receive the free brochure, which features a map, to have stamped once they have visited at least one activity from each category.
“It was designed as a way to highlight all 21 of the arts activities happening,” Christenson said. “If they get one or more stamp, they get one entry into a drawing to win an Ultimate Keeseville Getaway Giveaway prize. Anyone who gets all six stamps gets 10 entries.”
The prize features a mix of goods from a bunch of local businesses, she added.
EAT, DRINK, ART
Christenson encouraged attendees to visit the event’s welcome tent, which will be set up throughout the duration of the festival nearby Adirondack Hardware and Rental on Front Street.
“We’re going to have a ton of kids activities there,” Christenson said. “We’ll have two tables set up with all kinds of arts activities for kids, plus we’ll have volunteers there all throughout the weekend to give people their Arts Passports and answer any questions that they may have.
“There will be lots to eat and drink,” she added. “Ausable Brewing Company will be open throughout the weekend with food trucks and there is also Highlands Vineyard, which has some of the most stunning views in the area of Lake Champlain and a great tasting room.
“Come eat, drink, bring your kids. It’s going to be fun.”
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