CCE’s public outdoor art workshop a highlight of River Towns Plein Air 2021

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Thursday, April 15th, 2021

The first bursts of Spring often bring an urge to be outdoors, and a renewal of creative energy — maybe even more so this year, after a year of pandemic social distancing. This year, one of the region’s major art celebrations of Spring’s return is happening in the first home of Pennsylvania College of Art & Design. 

Sixty artists are gathering in Marietta, Lancaster County, in the next few weeks for in River Towns Plein Air 2021, and both the College and our Center for Creative Exploration are playing an integral role. The event encompasses a week of outdoor art-making sessions by the 60 participating artists at designated locations located on the schedule here; a final three-day juried exhibition of the art that results from those sessions; and an opportunity for the general public try out plein air painting with guidance from CCE instructors.

All of the events are open to the public and tie to the current purpose and the history of the College, which celebrates its 40th anniversary next year.


Led by Beth Hacker and Nichole Madonna, artists and CCE instructors, a free workshop in the artistic practice of plein air, or “out of doors” creation, offers members of the public the opportunity to be guided in projects of their own, with all supplies included. The workshop will be held Saturday, April 24, from 10 am to 12:30 pm, across the street from Marietta Community House, 264 W. Market St., Marietta. Physical distancing and masking are required to participate.

CCE Plein Air Workshop

Saturday, April 24, 10 am to 12:30 pm

Parking lot at 271 W. Market St., across from Marietta Community House

Rain Date: Sunday, April 25, 10 am to 12:30 pm

“When CCE is invited to partner in, or sees, this type of amazing work in our creative community we get excited about the ways in which we can help them tell their story and to be able to amplify the work we do in creative education,” says Natalie Lascek, CCE’s Director.

“When we began talking to (organizers) Marietta Art Alive about this event, it was to spread awareness to artists. As we began to learn more, we saw that we could add to the story of their work in plein air with an intergenerational workshop” that allows participants to experience that full cycle of creativity for themselves.

“One gets to see the artists working on site, then see the finished pieces, and now experience what it is like to create work in plein air with artists to guide you,” she says.

The intergenerational session will teach participants how to use a viewfinder to identify their composition, how to block in light and shadow, and the chance to experiment with various drawing media.

Curious about other opportunities to learn more about plein air classes, or instruction in painting, drawing,  landscape, or fundamentals of art? You can find more CCE experiences at https://pcad.edu/product-tag/inspired/.

And when they train those viewfinders directly across West Market Street, they’ll be looking at the first home of what has become Pennsylvania College of Art & Design.


CCE’s plein air workshop brings PCA&D back to the community where the school was founded, as Pennsylvania School of the Arts, in 1982. Established by faculty and volunteers from the recently closed York Academy of Arts, and offering a three-year diploma with classes in fine art, interior design, and communication arts, Pennsylvania School of the Arts has undergone many changes since those early years. In 1987 it moved to the City of Lancaster; in 1999 it was approved as a college and awarded degree-granting privileges by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, and in August 2000 the first BFA Foundation students walked through the doors. That following year, it moved into its current home in the center of Lancaster, surrounded by galleries and a community of independent artists who form the backbone of Lancaster’s reputation as a city that celebrates creative vision.

“Lancaster County has always had a history of makers and creatives within its DNA,” Lascek says.  “Marietta has always been one of those locations that shined a bit brighter — it’s no doubt that its proximity to the Susquehanna is a big influence!

“And as Marietta is the birthplace of PCA&D, it felt right (almost like a gravitational force) to come ‘home’ to celebrate artists and their amazing work. Perhaps it’s because our 40th anniversary is on the horizon, but mostly it feels like a necessary homecoming.”

River Towns Plein Air 2021 Exhibition

The final event of the plein air celebration, the River Towns Plein Air 2021 Exhibition, will be held April 23-25. The exhibition of works created during the April 13-21 weeklong art-making will be held at Studio 264 on the Community House property. Juror of Awards is Julie Riker, who studied Illustration at University of the Arts, Philadelphia, and owns her own decorative painting business. Her own plein air paintings often serve as inspiration for larger studio pieces, and she has won awards at many national plein air painting events. Riker’s work has been published in Fine Art Connoisseur, Plein Air, and Southwest Art magazines.