The light inside

Karen Meneghin, Zane Grey Plein Air and an exciting new future

Posted 2/14/24

NARROWSBURG, NY — “Plein air is about chasing the light,” Zane Grey Plein Air (ZGPA) artist and gallery owner Karen Meneghin said. “You look at how the light affects where you …

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The light inside

Karen Meneghin, Zane Grey Plein Air and an exciting new future


NARROWSBURG, NY — “Plein air is about chasing the light,” Zane Grey Plein Air (ZGPA) artist and gallery owner Karen Meneghin said. “You look at how the light affects where you are.”

That’s infused both her work and the new gallery/workshop space at the Narrowsburg Union.

Isn’t plein air about being, well, out in the air?

Yes. And not always. Just listen.

Getting there

Meneghin, who hails from Detroit, trained as a printmaker and a painter. She learned filmmaking in London and spent 25 years in New York City. “I maintained studios, became an art director, loved publishing—I worked for Sports Illustrated, New York magazine, Martha Stewart” and many more publications, she said.

Commercial work, work in website design, the many artistic possibilities in computers—it was fascinating but “I truly love figure painting and drawing too,” she said. “I always kept my hand in art. Always.”

And that led to landscapes.

Going outside

For many of those years, she had a home upstate, but painting the landscape wasn’t part of her work until she discovered the Cape Ann School and the work done in and around Jeffersonville, VT. “A group of artists painted and showed there for generations,” she said.

Artists who were a part of the Cape Ann School—yes, Cape Ann is actually in Massachusetts; yes, the artists painted boats and fishermen and water and above all the light—painted Vermont and its magnificent light as well.

“These pilgrimages began in the early 20th century… the changeable weather appealed to a ‘Cape Ann aesthetic,’ and Vermont’s meadows and rolling hillsides offered compositional possibilities distinct from the artists’s native seacoast,” according to Art New England.

“You have to arrive in between the storms,” said Meneghin with a laugh.

What she learned in Vermont meshed well with the space here.

Space indeed

It was a chance to work in the landscape, and maybe a chance to share the joy of painting with others.

“Being an artist is lonely,” Meneghin said. “It’s about creating community, for artists to be together.”

Meneghin took the idea of a plein air workshop to the Zane Grey Museum in Lackawaxen Township, PA. “It’s not sponsored by them,” she said. They gave permission to paint on the grounds. “I truly appreciate them.”

The group of artists “was in keeping with Zane Grey’s vision for his property—[as] a respite. He was an outdoorsman,” she said.

Workshops elsewhere followed—at The Cutting Garden in Youngsville, at the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum in Livingston Manor. “You’re surrounded 360 degrees by landscape,” she said. “It can be overwhelming.”

Her students learned to start by simply observing. What do you see? Keep looking. See deeper.

They moved on to painting at night. In the dark?

But the dark is not dark, exactly. “It changes your palette, of course,” Meneghin said. “And your eyes adjust and you see more. You’re capturing something, not completing something.”


The shift to creating a gallery and workspace—an indoor environment as well as the great wide region just begging to be painted—made sense.

But it’s clear she has a passion for education too. Even through a phone line, you can hear it.

“There’s growth in alternative education for the arts, growth in atelier.”

Whereas arts education has been largely centered in the classroom for many decades, an atelier is both a workshop and a small class, one master artist and the students. The work is representational and classical, writes Claire Heginbotham at Concept Art.

The approach is radical and retro both, and is taking hold as colleges close their fine arts departments.

Meneghin cites the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, which will close its doors at the end of the 2024-25 school year.

So creating an atelier of sorts makes sense. Perhaps it’s an opportunity for students to find the artist within, let loose the work that can get buried under the day-to-day.

The Narrowsburg Union had space available.

“It’s a working studio, a workshop; it’s central,” she said. There will be guest artists, classes, exhibits. Space to learn.

But don’t think ZGPA is staying indoors from now on. In the works: renting a plot at the Tusten Community Garden. Vegetables and flowers and miscellaneous greenstuff have always starred in still-life painting. Why not paint them as they grow? Why not grow something special for art? “There’s so much opportunity,” she said.

As this story was being written, the gallery had just launched an exhibition of Russian work. “Landscapes are a common language,” Meneghin said.

Workshops—Saturday Studios—will be offered at the gallery. “All levels of skill are welcome,” she said.

Fundraisers have been done and more community events are planned. ZGPA isn’t just for the artists, after all, she said. It’s for the community.

Plein air—indoors or out—meshes beautifully with the Upper Delaware, she said. “When you’re in nature, you’re silent… It’s a noble pursuit.”

The new Zane Grey Plein Air gallery is located at the Narrowsburg Union, 7 Erie Ave., Suite 105A. Hours are Thursday-Saturday from 12 noon to 6 p.m. or by appointment.

Learn more at

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