Annual Paint It! Ellicott City competition takes a fall turn this year amid the coronavirus pandemic

To artist Sid Branham, the biggest challenge at this year’s Art in Ellicott City presents Paint It! Ellicott City event will be the weather.

Originally planned for the end of June, the plein air painting competition was rescheduled for Oct. 15 to 19 due to the coronavirus pandemic, placing the outdoor-painting event smack in the middle of the fall season.


“In the summer, it’s warm and if it rains, you have an umbrella, so you do not get soaked,” said Branham, a painter from Relay who recalled participating in the plein air one year in two days of solid rain. “In the fall, I am not so sure about the temperatures. Some painters paint literally in freezing weather. I am not sure I am that hardy.”

The new date is one of several changes the Howard County Arts Council made in order to host the popular competition that features both juried and amateur artists setting up their easels around historic Ellicott City and painting while life goes on around them. Artists’ boundaries were extended to provide social distancing; the kickoff reception and award reception will be held virtually; and juried artists must schedule times to drop off their completed work.


“We have safety measures in place,” said Elli Hernandez, gallery and programs coordinator for the Howard County Arts Council. “It will be a great opportunity for them to get out and paint and to compete for these awards.”

Twenty-seven juried artists were selected from 40 applicants to compete for more than $8,000 in awards, including two $1,000 cash prizes in honor of Gino Manelli, a local artist who had an art studio in Ellicott City until his death in 2010.

Crystal Moll, a plein air artist and Baltimore gallery owner, is the guest juror for this year’s Paint It! Ellicott City. Winners will be announced Oct. 21 during a virtual reception from 6 to 7 p.m., which is free and open to the public, though registration is required. For more information, go to hocoarts.org.

All of the entered juried works will then be featured online as well as in the exhibit Paint It! Ellicott City 2020 that will be on display at the Howard County Arts Council through Dec. 12.

“Folks can come and see the artwork in person,” Hernandez said, noting that the Howard County Arts Council is now open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for limited hours.

There will not be an exhibit this year of those paintings done during the Open Paint-Out event. In the past, a temporary exhibit was set up during the reception. Like the reception, this year’s Open Paint-Out exhibit also will be online.

Because of the change in season for the competition, Hernandez is expecting this year’s works to look a little different.

“In the beginning of July, it tends to be really hot,” Hernandez said. “Artists would work early or late in the day. Now in October, I’m hoping to see more of that beautiful fall foliage.”

Besides his concern about the weather and all the COVID-19 precautions, Branham is excited to be able to participate in the event.

“It is still doable and it can work; I feel comfortable," Branham said. "There is always space between artists. We don’t group that close together even if we try to paint the same thing.”

Branham said he typically does not wear a mask while he paints, but he will have one handy so he can talk with people as they pass.

“Some people approach and watch what I’m doing. They don’t want to interrupt,” Branham said. “Others are curious. I like to answer their questions. People are always polite and very generous with their accolades.”


He credits both the Howard County Arts Council and Art in Ellicott City, the event’s title sponsor, for all the work the organizations have done.

“I appreciate everything the Arts Council is doing to put this on,” Branham said. “I like to paint and I am fortunate to be able to be a part of this.”

The following is a list of the selected artists competing in this year’s Art in Ellicott City presents Paint It! Ellicott City 2020: Bruno Baran, Marty Barrick, Julia Bowden, Sid Branham, Shawn Costello, Ann J. Crostic, Sharon Crute, Ronaldo Dorado, Vlad Duchev, John Eiseman, Erin Fearns, Rana Geralis, Marita Hines, Nishita Jain, Greg Johannesen, Jane Knighton, Kathleen Kotarba, Michael Kotarba, Amanda Milliner, Debra Moffitt, Lisa Regopoulos, Duane Sabiston, Ann Schaefer, Sandhya Sharma, Sharon Trumbull, Nancy Van Meter and JoAnn Weiss.

The Art in Ellicott City presents Paint It! Ellicott City 2020 opens with a free virtual welcome reception and kickoff via Zoom at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 14.

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