Jericho Plein Air Festival sends artists outdoors

Watch art being created at this July 18 event

By Phyl Newbeck
For the Essex Reporter

Phil Laughlin paints during a previous Jericho Plein Air Festival. This year’s event takes place on July 18. PHOTO | MIKE MARRAFFINO

Phil Laughlin paints during a previous Jericho Plein Air Festival. This year’s event takes place on July 18.

On July 18, art lovers will have a unique opportunity at numerous locations in Jericho. That’s because the fifth annual Jericho Plein Air Festival will be taking place. Plein Air (French for outdoors) art is growing in popularity and this is an opportunity to watch art as it is being created.

The festival began five years ago as three women gathered at the Emile Gruppe Gallery in Jericho to brainstorm ideas for bringing local artists together. The three had very different connections to the world of art. Jane Morgan is an artist, while Emilie Alexander is the owner of the gallery that carries the work of her father — a noted landscape painter from Gloucester, Mass.— as well as rotating exhibits. At the time of their meeting, Barbara Greene thought of herself as a non-profit business administrator and a former artist. The latter designation no longer applies since she has reconnected with her artistic side, thanks in part to the festival.

The three had no idea what to expect the first year of the festival, but more than 80 artists arrived at the gallery for breakfast and then fanned out to spots along the Jericho Center Green and the Jericho Settlers’ Farm which abuts the gallery. At the conclusion of the day, those works that had not been sold directly in the field were hung in the gallery, and the three organizers realized they had an annual event in the making. The festival’s success was contagious; several other locations in Vermont including Waitsfield, Grand Isle and Milton, have since initiated their own plein air festivals.

Artists at the festival range from those who have shown their work in national juried exhibits to those who are just getting started. Tony Conner of Bennington is in the former category. A member of the New England and Vermont Watercolor Societies, he makes time to come to Jericho every year. Conner enjoys the opportunity to interact with other artists, particularly those who are new to the craft. “This reminds me of the days when I was just getting started,” he said. “Most people are born with talent but it takes some time to hone it and this is a setting where nobody is judging you.”

This year, organizers tried to cap the number of artists at 65, but the space filled up so quickly that long-time attendees were relegated to the waiting list, so the number was increased to 75. The 2015 festival will include five venues in addition to the Jericho Center Green and the area outside the Gruppe gallery. These mapped locations will include barns, gardens, fields, bodies of water and long-range vistas. The finished paintings will hang in the gallery until Aug. 9.

Some plein air festivals invite professional artists to share insights with others, but the Jericho organizers decided not to do that because they felt it takes away from the idea that all the artists are on the same page. Informal teaching already goes on between artists and between the artists and the public. Emilie Alexander hopes more members of the public will come and watch the artists at work. “This helps them gain an understanding of what it takes to make a painting,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to talk to artists and see them in action. Everyone can learn something.”

Artists come to the festival from across the state from Barnet to Bennington, with others traveling from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York City, and as far as Salina, Kansas. Barbara Greene thinks the interest stems from the interaction artists have with each other and with the public. “During the course of the festival people meet each other at breakfast, while painting, or at the gathering at the end of the day,” she said. “Often they enjoy the company so much that they get together to paint outside the festival, as well.”

Alexander sees the event as partially a tribute to her father. “When he taught classes, they went outside even if it was a rainy day,” she said. “I think a piece of work painted outdoors has more life in it because of the natural light. I get a lot of satisfaction in getting artists out of their studios and into the natural world.”


Saxon Hill preschool prepares for new era in Underhill

Saxon Hill students build a fire truck. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED

Saxon Hill students build a fire truck.

Saxon Hill School enters its 51st year as one of Vermont’s oldest parent cooperative preschools with a move from its longtime home in a converted barn by the Old Red Mill in Jericho to the Underhill I.D. Elementary School. The Jericho Historical Society, which owns the mill complex, decided not to renew the school’s lease last year over concerns about wastewater capacity at the site.

While the school searches for its “forever home,” it is renting two classrooms at the Underhill I.D. school in the meantime. Operating out of the elementary school allows Saxon to expand its offerings for families. There are two three-day programs for children ages 3 to 5 and a four-day program for pre-K students and kindergartners ages 4 to 6. There are currently openings in the four-day program.

“While we have loved the location that has been our home for the last 25 years, we are looking forward to exploring new relationships, learning opportunities, and environments,” school leaders wrote in a press release. “We have renewed inspiration to further our mission to support children and families on their path of curiosity, discovery and individualized growth through intentional play-based learning and collaborative exploration.”

Saxon Hill School also welcomes three new teachers for the upcoming school year.

Beth Blair and Carol Shallow will become assistant teachers, and Allison Coeyman will become head teacher. Blair has a master’s degree in elementary education from the University of Phoenix and an ESL certificate from North Carolina State University. She has experience working with children as a classroom teacher, library assistant and yoga mentor.

Shallow has a master’s in of arts in teaching from Colorado College. She has five years of classroom teaching experience and worked for two years at the Shelburne Museum developing and teaching exhibit-based workshops to children. She also worked for Learning Materials Workshop — a U.S. distributor for Reggio Children publications.

Coeyman graduated from the University of Vermont with a bachelor’s degree in art education and has eight years of preschool teaching experience. Her children, Livia and Vianne, attended Saxon Hill School, and she served as a family helper in their classrooms.

Saxon Hill School is a Reggio Emilia inspired family cooperative preschool. It is NAEYC accredited, and is pre-approved for Act 166 funding. For more information or to inquire about preschool openings, call 899-2400, e-mail or visit

— Staff report

College graduations


Brigitte Irish of Underhill graduated with a Bachelor of Science in community health from Hofstra University.


Nicole Irwin of Jericho graduated with honors, receiving a Bachelor of Science in communication and theater from Castleton University.


Mikaela Poley of Underhill graduated with a Bachelor of Science in business administration from Castleton College.



Underhill residents Lena Capps, Colleen Davis and Taylor Roberge graduated from the Community College of Vermont.


Michael Ruegsegger of Jericho graduated from the Community College of Vermont.