The French expression “en plein air” translates to “in the open air” and is used to notate a traditional stereotype of painter and easel at work in the outdoors. The practice is especially friendly to more expressionist displays, styles that can quickly capture the shifting conditions of light and weather “sur la motif.”

With its long warm season and temperate winter, the Gulf Coast is ripe for the practice. For August, a host of area artists — Gail Bramer, Joanne Brandt, Roxann Dyess, Kathy Friedline, Carolyn Greene, Satomi Kamei, Karen McGahagin, Ainsley McNeely, Missy Patrick, Shirley Rasmussen, Melissa Root and Karen Spaulding — have brought their depictions of the outdoors into Mobile Arts Council (318 Dauphin St.) for the show “PleinAirSouth.”

Joining them will be “Waterline” from Heather Duffy, a Gulf Coast artist who had to leave the region to fully value it. Her exhibition is tied to her sense of place, memories — both cultural and individual — and the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina at the end of August.

Also in this show will be Eliza Coral’s “World of Animals.” The artist’s specialty is paintings of animals — both realistic and whimsical.

The featured artists will be on hand for a reception during the Aug. 14 LoDa Artwalk, 6-9 p.m. Admission is free and guitarist Gene Lane will provide music.

Beyond Artwalk, gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

For more info, call 251-432-9796.

Arts center adds instructor and classes
The Azalea City Center for the Arts has spent years building a local institution for teaching Mobile youngsters a variety of expressive skills. Founder Chris Paragone has seen his umbrella organization grow from a humble summer camp a dozen years ago to a multi-discipline tour de force on Midtown Park East near Dauphin Street and Interstate 65.

The facility is chock-full of artistic expression. It houses Sunny Side Theater, Daniel Driskell’s Full Scale School of Music and visual art lessons from Susie Lott. The latest news comes from the center’s dance academy.

(Photo/ The Azalea City Center for the Arts has added Dance Without Limits to its curriculum, a dance program geared exclusively toward special-needs participants.

(Photo/ The Azalea City Center for the Arts has added Dance Without Limits to its curriculum, a dance program geared exclusively toward special-needs participants.

April Smith Spencer, a longtime fixture on stages around Mobile, is now an instructor at the dance academy. The Huntingdon College grad is the former choreographer and dance director for Playhouse in the Park, and served as choreographer for Joe Jefferson Players for eight years. According to a news release from the center, Spencer also taught for the Mobile Ballet Company and several area private studios.

The center is also boasting a new approach to dance, heavily anchored in technique with an aim toward individual expression rather than competition and recital. That includes background in ballet, contemporary, tap, jazz and musical theatre.

Simultaneously, the center announced the establishment of the Dance Without Limits program, exclusively geared toward the special-needs community. It will offer a preschool class for ages 3-5, hip-hop classes for ages 6-11 (or based on cognitive level), an adult class and possibly a teen class if interest demands.

Most classes feature assistance — each dancer will have a volunteer helper to work with them through class. Volunteers are dancers at Broadway South, Camp Smile counselors or speech and occupational therapy students from the University of South Alabama.

Dance Without Limits classes will be led by Kerrie Benson, who has served as a dance teacher for more than 20 years. She also possesses the understanding gained through parenting a special-needs child.

Occupational therapists Mia Manning and Victoria Rowan also will be on hand.

All dancers will perform at the Broadway South Dance recital in May and at community events throughout the year. Long-range aspirations for Special Olympics participation are in the works.

Tuition rates are $50 per month, with some scholarships available.
For more information, call 251-391-0244 or email