By Abigail Scott
Alongside the Erie Canal in Brockport on a recent Saturday afternoon, the outdoor pathway was filled with easels, paint brushes and blank canvasses for Plein Air Painting. Plein Air Painting is a type of painting that requires the artist to capture a landscape in the open air using oil-based paints. The unique event was held every Saturday during the month of February.
Instructor, artist, and co-owner of the Hart Gallery 27, Sarah Hart first experienced Plein Air Painting when she was in Florence Italy.
“I realized in Florence I was always going to be an outsider, but if I came home I could focus on our own heritage and people,” Hart said. “I think it’s a huge gift to the community that the village is on the canals because there are all these beautiful scenes to paint of the beautiful village with the old buildings and the canal and the bridges. It’s nostalgic for the thousands of people who’ve grown up here and moved away,” Hart said.
Sarah Hart (Left) and Benton Hart (Right) in Tuscany, Italy (Photo/Contributed)
A painter from Holley NY, Amy Machamer, doesn’t have time to participate in the hobbies she is passionate about. But with the help of Hart, she was able to bring art back into her life.
“I’ve been painting my whole life but I don’t have a lot of time anymore to paint so I’ve just been doing quick little landscapes with paper, acrylic and pencil. It’s been a long time since I have done anything with oil paints so I was excited to be reintroduced,” Machamer said.
Amy Machamer Plein Air Painting on a cold day (Photo/Abigail Scott)
Hart introduced painting to Brockport resident Jennifer Setter who is new to the art world. Setter says learned to find the beauty in her hometown that she may have never recognized before.
“I learned that painting relaxes me, you get into the zone, a whole other headspace and decompress,” Setter said. I tried painting Main Street Bridge and all of the nature surrounding the town and the Erie Canal. It’s special how these classes and the canal connect the community to our history and let us know that the arts are still alive,” Setter said.
Jennifer Setter’s painting of the Erie Canal (Photo/Abigail Scott)
Most participants painted the Erie Canal but Machamer took a different approach and sought out a different perspective of the church and firehouse.
“I love how buildings tell stories, with the shades, blocky shapes, and graphics of the Erie Canal architecture. It’s just a different aspect of the canal that’s not the water, it’s everything that the water made happen,” Machamer said.
Amy Machamer’s painting of the Church and Firehouse
Co-owner of Hart Gallery 27, Benton Hart has lived in Brockport since 1971 and witnessed some history of the building the Hart Gallery 27 currently occupies.
“The gallery itself was originally a freestanding building holding the very first Methodist Church in Brockport in 1840,” Hart said. “Since then it has been a number of different things; a cigar factory, a convenience store, a grocery store and an arts and crafts store. Most recently it was a museum and today it’s home to the Hart Gallery 27. We have nine working artists’ studios, in addition to a small gallery upstairs in the main gallery,” Hart said.
The Hart Gallery 27, Brockport NY. (Photo/Contribution)
New York State Governor Kathy Hochul began this year’s season of the On the Canals free events. This is a 3 million dollar revitalization program funded by the New York Power Authority and Canal Corporation’s Reimagine the Canals initiative to increase the economy and tourism of canal-side communities.
The “On the Canals” program and Plein Air Painting event brings attention to the Hart Gallery 27 and brings the community together to unwind.
“We’re trying really hard to not only leverage the canal, but we really think it’s worthy of preserving and educating the community. Here at the Hart Gallery, we offer a service that is different from chicken wings and beer, something to free your mind,” Hart said.
Plein Air Painting with the Hart Gallery 27 is more than just a random community event, it is part of an outreach initiative that extends across all of the canal side communities in New York State and Setter agrees.
“Our community is special and it’s important to take advantage of some of the interesting events that can happen right here. You don’t have to travel far to witness the significance of history and how it can bring a community together,” Setter said.
For a chance to experience Plein Air Painting or more art classes with Sarah Hart, click here.