Art outside: Painters to create along winding road in Saratoga Battlefield

Visitors to the Saratoga National Historical Park this Saturday will have more than just history to

Visitors to the Saratoga National Historical Park this Saturday will have more than just history to look at.

Art, specifically the battlefield’s bi-annual Plein Aire Art Day, will share the spotlight with history as the visitor center and the 11-mile tour road that winds through the park will have a number of artists in various locations creating new pieces of work.

“Plein aire means you’re going out and painting the landscape while you’re looking straight at it,” said park ranger Jennifer Richard-Morrow. “You’re not painting in a studio. You’re outdoors and you’re painting the landscape as you see it.”

Plein aire is a French expression that means “open air.” The event is held once in the spring and again in the fall at the battlefield, which has been putting on art-related events since 2008.

“About three years ago, we had an event involving the American Battlefield Protection Plan, and we had 30 artists that participated and provided original pieces of art,” said Gina Johnson, the park’s program manager.

Plein Aire Art Day

WHERE: Saratoga National Historical Park, 648 U.S. Route 4, Stillwater

WHEN: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday

HOW MUCH: $5 per automobile

MORE INFO: 664-9821, ext. 224

Regular event

“It was a very successful event at the Saratoga Arts Center, so we’ve followed that up with our plein aire day. It spawned so much interest that we decided to do it twice a year, once in the spring and once in the autumn. It’s a great way to show people the wonderful views we have here at the battlefield.”

Any artist who shows up on Saturday is a guest of the park superintendent, Joe Finan, meaning the usual $5 per carload fee will be waived. Artists will be able to set up their easels just about anywhere they’d like to on the battlefield’s auto tour road. For younger, aspiring artists, Richard-Morrow will be stationed at the visitors center to offer a few helpful hints on how to paint landscapes.

“We got a lot of people who come to the park for recreation, and a lot of the time the kids really enjoy stopping and learning how to paint,” she said. “I’ll have a specific table set up on our patio at the visitor’s center, so I’ll be helping the kids and I’ll also be painting myself so I’ll be giving demonstrations of open air landscape painting.”

Richard-Morrow graduated from The College of Saint Rose with a degree in studio art. She has long been involved in Colonial period re-enacting with her husband, Kevin, a member of the 2nd Albany County Militia re-enacting group. It was her involvement with her husband’s organization that eventually landed her her job with the battlefield. She’s a full-time employee during the summer and works part time during the rest of the season.

“We’ve been re-enacting for quite a while, and in the 1990s the secretary of the interior was talking about closing the 25 smallest national parks,” she remembered. “So Saratoga put out the call for volunteers, and my husband and I decided to help out. It actually turned into a whole new career for me because after volunteering for a while, I was hired by the battlefield in 2002. My husband still volunteers.”

Richard-Morrow grew up in North Greenbush and graduated from Catholic Central High School in 1976 before heading on to Saint Rose.

“I’ve always had a great interest in local history ever since I was a young kid,” she said. “It’s been fun re-enacting, and it’s a wonderful job I have. The people up here at the battlefield are great to work with.”

When she isn’t working or re-enacting, she’s most likely painting.

Lover of landscapes

“I do a lot of landscapes, and I generally work in pastels,” said Richard-Morrow, a member of the Adirondack Pastel Society. “I love doing peaceful landscapes and dramatic ones like the Cohoes Falls. We have wonderful views at the battlefield and, if I wasn’t at the visitor’s center, I’d probably be out at stop six [on the tour road]. That’s a great spot.”

There are 10 stops in all along the battle tour road. Located east of Saratoga Lake between Route 4 and 32 in the town of Stillwater, the battlefield was the site of two important military engagements between the Americans and the British in 1777.

The first encounter was on Sept. 19 when Gen. John Burgoyne’s British troops, with the help of German Hessian soldiers, encountered Gen. Horatio Gates’ Continental Army and the New York Militia.

That fight halted the British advance southward. On Oct. 7 the two armies met again in the same vicinity, and this time the Americans were the clear victors. Burgoyne surrendered his army a few days later, marking the Saratoga campaign as a major turning point in the American Revolution.

Categories: Life and Arts

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