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Breckenridge artist Amy Evans participates in The Great American Paint In

Breckenridge artist Amy Evans painted “On the Wildside” for The Great American Paint In. Her work will be featured in a national collection and art book organized by Gallery CERO.
Photo from Gallery CERO

BRECKENRIDGE — While the novel coronavirus pandemic has shut down much of the arts industry, that doesn’t mean people have stopped creating. On the contrary, creative minds from around the country are using it as an opportunity to freely express themselves. One art collector hopes to capture their emotion in an art book.

“This is history,” said Bill Weinaug, founder of The Great American Paint In. “The last time this happened was 1918. There’ve been other pandemics, but … the one closest to this one is of 1918.”

Weinaug and his family own Wekiva Island, a marina in Florida that is also part bar and environmental center built around the pillars of learning, sustainability and art. There were no more patrons dining, guests listing to live music or artists coming to paint for the region’s plein air events when the pandemic hit. In April, they worked on starting an online collection called The Great American Paint In to replace the paint outs.

Part of the site’s mission is to source material for the book from all 50 states, but it also acts as a marketplace for the artist. They’ll receive the majority of the proceeds when their work is sold while Weinaug gets a small fraction to help put the book together. Accompanying the paintings, both online and in print, is a passage on how the pandemic has affected them.

“I really wanted to collect art from the greatest artists in America for this book, along with their story,” Weinaug said. “The story is whatever their story is. Some of them bring you to tears. Some of them are glorious. Most of them are stories of hope. It’s so moving and so real.”

Out of countless submissions, a jury has so far selected about 200 pieces ranging in size and style. Breckenridge resident Amy Evans is one of those featured artists.

Evans’ classes at Breckenridge Creative Arts stopped when the pandemic hit, so she turned her home studio into a sort of residency to keep her skills sharp. Weinaug’s team solicited her in May, and she used old reference photos to paint a landscape of wildflowers along Breckenridge’s Black Powder Pass. Evans agreed to participate in the project to show that the coronavirus hasn’t killed the arts.

“I thought it would be interesting to show that we were still being active even though galleries and shows are closed or have gone virtual,” Evans said. “But underneath all of that, there are artists working.” 

Called “On the Wildside,” Evans said her painting acts as a remembrance of what people were doing before the pandemic and she hopes the flowers have a calming effect.

It’s smaller than her usual work at 12 inches by 9 inches, but she used it as an opportunity to paint on a gesso panel — a material smoother than canvas that interacts with the paint differently. If her work sells, she can submit another piece to take her slot online.

Janice Wright of Arvada had her work “Calm Day” selected to be in The Great American Paint In. The online collection acts as a marketplace for about 200 artists.
Photo from Gallery CERO

While oil paintings are her bread and butter, it hasn’t been her only medium through the years. Originally from Shreveport, Louisiana, Evans has been painting since she was a child and followed up her private lessons with an art major in college. She passed on her love through teaching at the high school and college levels.

Evans switched to fiber arts when she had children and moved around frequently due to her husband’s military job. She made 60-inch abstract tapestries and wearable pieces. She dabbled with watercolors after a class in Denver, but she found that she still wanted to concentrate on oil because of her ability to play with a variety of different strokes.

Eventually, she started painting the tapestries and was pulled to completely return to the brush. She doesn’t discredit her time with weaving and watercolors, as she said those experiments helped her find and solidify her artistic voice.

“My main focus is painting anything from life,” said Evans, who has now lived in Breckenridge for 16 years. “I like the immediacy of plein air. I like watching the changes of light and how it affects subject matter.”

Weinaug isn’t on the jury — and therefore had no say in selecting Evan’s piece — but he has a personal connection to the nature-themed work as a backpacker and environmentalist. 

“I love art that reflects realism and reflects nature, because that’s me,” said Weinaug, who joked that he would only choose plein air paintings if he was on the jury. “I would get stuck there. Amy’s work is very consistent with my passion and my love.”

He also found her work to be representative of Colorado as a whole and wishes The Great American Paint In makes the cross-country works and viewpoints more accessible.

“Every time you look at art, it gives you this incredible feeling and takes you to where you’re supposed to be,” Weinaug said. “I always wanted to make art available to other folks, too.”

Weinaug hopes the book will be finished by the end of the year and publish sometime in 2021. It, and works from the collection that he has purchased, will be viewable at Gallery CERO on Wekiva Island. Visit TheGreatPaint-In.com to view the artwork. Evans’ other paintings are on display at the Breckenridge Gallery, 124 S. Main St., or online at BreckenridgeGallery.com.

Florida-based painter Mary Jane Volkmann created “The Pout of a Hundred Possible Meanings” for The Great American Paint In. The goal of the event is to gather work from all 50 states that captures the emotion felt by people during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Photo from Gallery CERO

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