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Mt. Holyoke Summit Paint Out Brings Artists to the Land

Artist working at Summit

On a brilliantly sunny day in June, a dozen artists from around the Valley gathered at the historic Mount Holyoke summit for Kestrel’s second plein air Paint Out. Using all kinds of materials from acrylic paint to pastel chalks to watercolors, the artists each created unique pieces that captured that moment in space and time.

It was a tribute to the many painters throughout history, including the Hudson River School artists, who found the view from Mt. Holyoke so inspiring. In 1836, Thomas Cole hiked up this same mountain, made some sketches, and later painted one of the most famous images of the Oxbow and our local landscape. When the public saw paintings like these, they began to realize what could be lost to the rapid industrialization that was taking place around them. This is what art has done for the landscape in the past, and continues to do today: It helps us remember what we love about these places and why we need to protect them. 180 years after Thomas Cole hiked Mount Holyoke, we are fortunate that artists can still paint that view, thanks to the efforts of the conservation movement that was inspired in part by the landscape artwork of Cole’s generation.

Check out some photos from the event on our Facebook page. We hope that the art that was created during this event will inspire future generations to care for the land!

Featured Artists from the Paint Out

Meg BandarraMeg Bandarra with her artwork

Pastel painter Meg Bandarra lives and works in Northampton, MA. Meg’s work is primarily focused on the familiar urban and rural landscape of the valley. She enjoys working both in her studio as well as outside en plein air (particularly at night).
Meg is member of several art organizations and her award-winning work can be seen in national and local shows throughout central and southern New England. More information about Meg and her work can be found at

“In my work, I try to create a visual memory that will transport me back to the scene and evoke the same emotion I felt when it captured my attention. My hope is that it will also capture the viewer’s attention and allow them to see and feel the moment as if they have been transported with me.”


Pastel painting by Meg Bandarra
“Summit House View” 8×10 pastel by Meg Bandarra

Holland Hoagland: Holland is a sculptor and wildlife artist from Hatfield, MA. She says “painting is not my thing”, but wanted to experiment with it at our Paint Out. (We are so glad she did!) You can learn more about Holland and her work at

“My on-going lifetime goal as an artist is to create sculptures in wood and stone, which most accurately capture and represent wildlife’s true nature: its natural form of energy in its habitat. I focus my art explorations on two classic forms of expression: primarily, “subtractive” (carving away to release the figures within) This is represented by human and wildlife sculptures in wood and stone. In addition, I work in the “additive” process (building upon) to depict life-like species in the forms of birds, butterflies and fish, which are created with a variety of plant fiber papers. Thus, balancing subtractive and additive sculptural forms of art, gives me a sense of mental balance in my personal exploration of creativity.”

Untitled by Holland Hoagland

Christine Labich: Christine is an award-winning painter who finds magic in our surroundings Chris Labich smilingand encourages others to do the same. She holds a Masters degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Cornell University, and lives in Amherst with her family. You can see more of her work at

“How often do we look up from what we are doing and appreciate the world that we are part of? Everything in our landscape is commonplace—the trees, clouds, water, rocks and sky are absolutely ordinary, and yet they are also completely magical. I want people to enjoy the magic of our ordinary world—to have a place to gaze and remember that we are not just our jobs, or our stories about ourselves, or our worries. We are part of something inexplicable, ungraspable, and luminous. We need this point of balance in our culture of striving and busyness.

In my work, I spend time looking at and responding to our ordinary, magical world with the goal of feeding that place in all of us that needs to remember that we are part of something larger. My way of working has been shaped by meditation practice, and the simple practice of coming back (or waking up) over and over again to what is in front of us. By my attention, the time that I spend on a painting, and the marks I make, I hope to give the viewer a visible expression of feelings that are often invisible or unspoken–feelings of mystery, inspiration, connectedness, interdependence, the preciousness of life, and the sweet-sadness of the fleeting nature of all things.”

Chris Labich Mt Holyoke painting
Untitled, 11×14 pastel by Christine Labich

Tom Martin: Tom is a local artist from Westhampton and produced this lovely watercolor at the Paint Out.

Tom Martin watercolor
Watercolor by Tom Martin


Simone Alter Muri: Simone is an artist, art professor, art therapist and Director of the Art Therapy/Counseling Program at Springfield College. She creates and exhibit multidimensional plain air paintings and conceptual installations about social issues. As a consultant, she trains educators and allied health professionals about the applications and benefits of art therapy and art as healing. She lectures and leads workshops on numerous subjects related to art therapy, art education and creativity. Simone lives in Northampton. You can learn more about her wide-ranging artistic styles and her work at

“I find plein air painting to be a meditation, a spiritual practice with the environment. As an artist and an art therapist, I am interested in metaphors and symbols. I awaken each day and see the spaces between the branches, shadows of light, transformation of the seasons. Time passes, in even the depth of winter one can be reassured that spring will arise. The landscape contains inspirations and offers meditative moments. As a plein air artist, I am affected by light and color and how these elements create an impression of space.”

Mount Skinner, acrylic by Simone Alter Muri


Bob Masla paintingRobert Masla: Robert Masla is an award-winning artist based part-time in Ashfield, MA, whose work is in many discerning collections. His work has appeared in various books and publications such as: The Artist and the American Landscape, Changing Prospects, The Artists Magazine, Art New England, PleinAir Today & Outdoor Painter. He has a degree from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston with a BFA from Tufts University and a Graduate Degree in Painting and Art History from the City College of New York.

During the course of his professional career Robert has also remained dedicated to art as an educator, teaching and lecturing in various settings with a wide range of audiences. He created the Art for Everyone program in Springfield and received grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council for bringing art into inner-city schools that had no previous art programs.  He and his wife, Monica Levine, founded Casa de los Artistas, Inc. ( and built a home and his Studios South in the charming fishing village of Boca de Tomatlan, on the coast of Mexico. You can find more of Bob’s art at

“Throughout my painting career, though I allow creativity and the innate spiritual impulse of creation to dictate the direction of my work, (i.e. the choice of medium, style, technique, genre, etc.), I have also continually been drawn to and focused on the landscape, painting both in plein air, (on location) and in the studio. Nature has played a key role in my life as teacher, healer and guide, her powers and grounding energy nourishing my growth. Thus, the Landscape has been the source of much of my inspiration, it’s archetypical imagery a universal language.”

Clouds Floating By painting
“Clouds Floating By”, Robert Masla


Russell Steven Powell: Russell Steven Powell’s artwork has been featured in solo and group exhibitions in western Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, and Cape Cod. His solo exhibit, “Changing Perspectives,” is now on view at the Westhampton Public Library, through June. His paintings are in a number of private collections, and currently are on display at the Old Mill Inn in Hatfield and the Northampton Community Music Center.

Powell previously produced award-winning magazines (New England Watershed: A Journal of Art, Culture, and Ideas) and documentaries (Shack Time, about the artist shacks in the dunes of the Cape Cod National Seashore). He has published five books: Apples of New England, America’s Apple, My Interview with James Baldwin, Feeling the Heat, and Living Without Lawn. He lives in Hatfield, Massachusetts. You can find more of Russell’s art and writings at his website,

Russell Steven Powell painting
“Skinner 2”, 36×24 acrylic on canvas, by Russell Steven Powell


Deborah Rubin

Deborah Rubin paints in watercolor and occasionally acrylic and gouache. She has been pushing the boundaries of photo-realism and hyper-realism since the mid 1970’s with an eye on nature and more recently, architecture. Born in Chicago in 1948, Rubin holds a BFA from the University of Illinois. She currently lives in Western Massachusetts.

At the Paint Out, Deb used a very different style of painting from the photo-realism she is known for, instead sketching and coloring with watercolor paints to create a quick impression of a place. In this case, she sketched another artist who was working nearby. Deb teaches workshops on this kind of accessible painting.

See more about Deb’s work and her workshop schedules at


Travel Watercolor Sketch, by Deb Rubin


Jan Ruby-Crystal

Jan received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Pratt Institute and her Masters of Fine Arts from Rochester Institute of Technology. She has pursued both a career as a fine artist and as a Professor Art and Design. She recently retired as Faculty Emerita from Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania. Since then she has been living in Northampton and teaching art at the Smith College Campus School and at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary where she has founded the Art House. Jan has exhibited her work throughout the U.S., Asia, and Guatemala. Her paintings are currently on display at the Hosmer Gallery (Forbes Library,) Northampton and at Mill 180 Park in Easthampton.

Last summer Jan received the Painting Residency from the Outer Cape Artist’s Association where she lived without running water or electricity for two weeks in the Provincetown Dunes, inhabiting the famous Melon-Gelb Shack. See more about Jan’s work at

“Creating in nature inspires me to see more, feel more and to respond in deeper and more personal ways. I am fascinated by the colors, textures, values, lines and shapes all around me. The sounds of the forest, the pounding sea, the wind, the swish and call of animals and critters of all kinds provide new possibilities. The changing weather, seasons and light challenge me, causing me to be prepared for everything. My goal is to bring into view something that feels unique and connected. Something I want to see again and again.”

Summit House by Jan Ruby Crystal
“Summit House,” by Jan Ruby Crystal

Stephen Schneider: Steve is Professor of Astronomy and Department Chair at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is also a talented artist!







Untitled, acrylic on 12″x19″ canvas by Stephen Schneider


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