in plein sight

by Anna Rabhan
How many anniversary parties do you go to where you give a gift and get something really special in return? The North Florida Land Trust is about to celebrate its tenth anniversary and it only wants one gift – your help in achieving its stated mission to “preserve and protect open space in Northeast Florida.” In return, you’ll take home a special piece of original artwork that reflects the beauty of the region. Every time you look at it, you’ll think of how you contributed to preserving the natural character of our region. According to the nonprofit Land Trust, which serves seven counties and has been instrumental in preserving nearly 1,000 acres of natural lands to date, “Preservation of open space benefits our community by adding to quality of life values for the residents of our community, preserving precious natural habitats and the rural character of Northeast Florida for future generations.”
The Land Trust is partnering with the St. Johns Cultural Council Northwest Arts Advisory Group ( to present a unique community fundraising event. From Tuesday, October 6 to Saturday, October 10, visitors will have the rare opportunity to witness plein air artists at work in four of the area’s most beautiful spots during a five-day juried event called Painting the Region: The Bartram Trail.
There are currently 46 plein air artists slated to participate. Painting “en plein air,” popularized by the likes of Monet and Renoir, literally means painting “in the open air.” Artists will rotate among the four locations and visitors will have the opportunity to observe them each day. Work completed at the event will be displayed daily at Alpine Groves Park for viewing and purchase. Bonnie Barnes, Executive Director of the North Florida Land Trust, says, “Many people right now just don’t have money to donate, but they might be able to … buy a piece of art to hang on their wall that represents their own backyard so they’re feeling value added while they’re helping a great cause. Everybody wins in this.”
The SJCC and the Land Trust have selected Alpine Groves, a 19th-century citrus farm; Marywood, with its miles of wooded trails and river views; Beluthahatchee, the lake site of Stetson Kennedy’s home; and the Bailey Family’s horse and cattle ranch, otherwise known as Needmore Land and Cattle Company, as locations for the artists to work each day from 10 am – 4 pm.
These scenic and historic spots surround a section of the Bartram Trail, which, according to the Department of Transportation’s Public Information Office, “follows the approximate route of 18th-century naturalist William Bartram’s southern journey from March 1773 to January 1777.” Barnes says, “We want this to become a signature event year after year for the Land Trust because it is such a great idea.” Because the Bartram Trail stretches far and wide, she hopes to expand the event in the future by adding more locations. “It gives us the ability to grow … into something incredibly wonderful for this area.”
Spectators will be provided a free guidebook, complete with a map depicting points of interest at the various venues, thumbnail example images of the artists’ work and professional contact information for each artist. Artists will also be doing demonstrations for school groups on Thursday and Friday. Adults may purchase $5 tickets to the Community Night Cocktail Sunset on Friday, October 9. Proceeds from that event will benefit SJCC and the Land Trust.
The artists, the North Florida Land Trust and the St. Johns Cultural Council will share the proceeds from sales of artwork. Money the Land Trust raises through Painting the Region will help it achieve its many land preservation goals. One project the Land Trust is currently working on is creating a northern access point to the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Preserve. There are three phases planned for this project and the Land Trust estimates that it will need $800,000 for Phase I. The Painting the Region: The Bartram Trail anniversary event will hopefully go a long way in helping the Land Trust reach that goal and many others. Learn more about the Land Trust’s numerous projects at
The Family Festival celebration of the tenth anniversary of the North Florida Land Trust, the culminating event of Painting the Region, will be held at Alpine Groves Park on Saturday, October 10. This full day of family-oriented demonstrations will include historical re-enactors, food, painting demonstrations, booths for art and environmental groups with fun kids’ activities, and music. Admission is free. The $30, ticketed closing celebration, which starts at 7 pm, will include heavy hors d’oeuvres, a cash bar, continued sales of the artwork produced during the week and a live auction of a signature painting by artist Allison Watson.
Organizers have even provided for rain dates during the following week, with October 17 as the alternative closing celebration date. Get in on this fun, educational, philanthropic event. Check out the Painting the Region website ( for more information and details, including a list of participating artists with links to their own websites and examples of their work.