Palouse Plein Air Competition showcases Moscow’s landscapes

Artists can submit paintings that capture Moscow’s natural, urban landscapes



2013’s first place winner was Andy Sewell’s Garden Studebaker.

JOEL KEMEGUE, Evergreen mint editor

The Moscow Arts Commission is accepting submissions for the Palouse Plein Air Competition from now to Sept. 10.

Plein Air is a genre of painting focused on outdoor landscapes, according to the contest website. Arts Program Manager Megan Cherry said the competition has been going on for 10 years and was started by Aaron Johnson, University of Idaho professor and Moscow Arts Commission member, who suggested Moscow’s landscapes would make good subjects.

“The landscape is unbelievable, it’s just sort of dizzyingly pretty,” Cherry said. “This sort of art-making gets people out into the landscape to respond directly to what they’re seeing.”

The paintings are judged by a different guest juror every year. Cherry said this allows more variety among the winners, as something in a painting might stand out to a current juror that a previous one might not have liked as much. After the judging, there is a reception and exhibition where they announce first place and winners of other categories such as the best downtown or historical painting.

With COVID-19 restrictions, however, the contest had to change if it was to still go on in addition to keeping artists and viewers safe.

“We’re having to reimagine how to do this event in a way that keeps everybody safe,” Cherry said. 

Cherry said they still plan on holding the competition and exhibition regardless of what happens. If it is safe to hold a public exhibition and reception by Sept. 18, they will, and if it is not they will decide what to do in advance and likely move the exhibition online. 

“This is the perfect form of art-making for social distancing because what we’re asking artists to do is go out into the landscape and experience the landscape as an artist,” Cherry said. “It’s an event that’s building a lot of momentum, and we didn’t want to lose that.”

Submissions are open until Sept. 10. Registration is $25 and $20 for students, and artists must be 18 or older to submit. More information on how to submit can be found here.