Painters showcase art in Roanoke’s open air


By Gwen Clayton

It was a picture-perfect autumn day Oct. 13 with sunlight dancing across the town and painters lining the streets as part of the Renaissance in Roanoke art exhibition.

“I think because we’re a quaint little community and have lots of things to look at and to paint,” said Ruth Marsh, the event’s co-chair. “One thing that makes it special is because it’s juried. The artisans don’t feel like just anything is here — that people can’t come and just buy a painted rock. It’s true artists that are creating something.”

The Roanoke Arts Council started the outdoor, juried art show and sale in 2008. To date, it is the only event the organization puts on. More than 50 artists paint plein air scenes at any of the inspiring locations throughout town. Most of the artists also have a vendor booth to sell their art. Ribbons are given for the paintings as well as the booths.

“For years, I’ve come here to enjoy the day at the festival,” said Heidi Malott of Fort Wayne. “I’ve been painting for 20-plus years and I finally decided it was time for me to be part of the venue.”

Malott took second place in the plein air contest and best in class for her booth.

“I liked painting the people and all the art booths that were on Main Street,” she said. “The way the sunlight was shining on all the people out here and all the tents — it was just gorgeous.”

Students from Roanoke Elementary School also participated, as did local college students who competed for $1,000 in art scholarships.

Other festivities included live music, a farmers market and food vendors. Merchants in town also benefited from the additional traffic.

“Look around today,” Marsh said. “It’s bringing in people here and then these people are not just shopping from our artisans here on the street. They’re visiting the shops here. They’re maybe buying gas here. They’re maybe using an ATM, which generates funds for the bank here. I think art just generates revenue for every small community.”