Seneca Lake Plein Air Festival – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Seneca Lake Plein Air Festival

The beauty of the Finger Lakes will be the inspiration for original works of art created throughout Geneva as part of the Seneca Lake Plein Air Festival this week. 

One of the premier arts events in the Finger Lakes, the festival will take place from Wednesday, Sept. 28 through Sunday, Oct. 2. The festival is sponsored by and benefits the Smith Center for the Arts in Geneva. Members of the Hobart and William Smith community will be involved throughout the festival.

Plein air painting, from the French “en plein air” meaning in the open air, is a growing movement in the U.S. among artists who enjoy painting outdoors and capturing a moment of natural light on canvas during a brief period of time.

More than 30 artists will paint during the festival and the public is invited to observe as they work. The festival also doubles as a juried art competition with cash prizes in many categories. Final paintings will be exhibited on the Smith’s stage and will be available to the public for viewing and purchase on Oct. 1, with a preview reception beginning at 5 p.m.

During the Oct. 1 exhibit at the Smith, the stage will serve as an art gallery as guests have the opportunity to enjoy and purchase the art created during the festival. There will be a ticketed preview party, exhibit and sale from 5 to 7:30 p.m. The juried art exhibit and sale is a benefit for the Smith, with 30 percent of the sales donated to the Smith. The evening will also feature jazz music organized by Assistant Professor of Music Mark Olivieri and performed by HWS students Nicholas LaDuca ’19, Jonah Warschaw ’20 and Jasper White ’20. Tickets are $25 and include a complimentary glass of wine, appetizers and live music. HWS is among the event sponsors.

Early in the day on Oct. 1, from 10 a.m. to noon, the festival will host an opportunity for the public to watch artists painting in one location during a “Paint Off” at Geneva’s Lehigh Gardens Neighborhood (Torrey Park). Attendees will have the chance to observe multiple artists as they apply their interpretations of a common space on canvas, working closely under the limitations of time and space. A judging and sale of the artwork created during the event will take place at the Smith at 12:30 p.m. Associate Professor of Art and Architecture Michael Tinkler will serve as judge and easels and lights have been loaned courtesy of Professor of Art and Architecture Phillia Yi through the Department of Art and Architecture.

A public exhibition and sale of remaining work will take place at the Smith from noon to 3 p.m. on Oct. 2. Most of the artists will be in attendance at this free exhibit, and welcome discussion of their work and the plein air technique of painting. After the public sale, a selection of plein air paintings will be displayed at the Billsboro Winery Tasting Room Gallery on Route 14 South throughout the months of October and November, and will be offered for sale at artists’ discretion. Billsboro Winery, owned by Kim and Vinny Aliperti, has sponsored the Plein Air Festival since its launch. 

“We want everyone to come and view the beautiful images of the Finger Lakes that the plein air artists will capture,” says Sally Webster ’74, who serves on the steering committee with William Smith College Head Soccer Coach Aliceann Wilber P’12.

The public is invited to suggest locations as potential painting sites for artists to consider. Businesses or homes that would welcome artists can submit their location ideas by contacting the Smith at (315) 789-2221, or emailing    

For more information about The Smith and The Smith Center for the Arts, visit the Smith website or contact Interim Executive Director Jan Regan at or Executive Assistant Cassie Gill or (315) 789-2221.

Schedule of Events

Wednesday, Sept. 28 – Saturday, Oct. 1:

  • Artists will be painting “en plein air” throughout each day at locations of their choice in the Seneca Lake and Geneva area.

Saturday, Oct. 1:

  • 10 to 12 p.m. – Paint-Off in the Lehigh Gardens Neighborhood (Torrey Park) of Geneva. The public is welcome to visit and view the artists at work.
  • 12:30 p.m. – Paint-Off Show and Sale at the Smith Opera House. Artists exhibit their paintings from the morning’s competition for judging and sale.
  • 5 to 7:30 p.m. – Preview Party, Exhibit and Sale (tickets required) at the Smith Opera House. The stage at the Smith Opera House is transformed into an art gallery featuring the best original work of the artists at this juried art show supporting the Smith Center for the Arts.

Sunday, Oct. 2:

  • noon – 3 p.m. – Public Exhibition and Art Sale (free admission) at The Smith Opera House.

Monday, Oct. 10 – Wednesday, Nov. 30:  

  • Plein Air paintings will be on exhibit for sale at the Billsboro Winery Tasting Room Gallery on Rt. 14 South, Geneva.

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