Duneland Plein Air Painters

Local artists capture the strength and dynamics of Burns Harbor facility


On a crisp, spring morning, a group of ladies turned quite a few heads while visiting the ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor facility. They aren’t steelmakers but instead are known as the “Duneland Plein Air Painters,” a group of local artists interested in capturing the outdoor steelmaking experience on canvas. “En plein air” is a French expression which refers to painting "in the open air," particularly painting outdoors.

Jean BargeronMember Jean Bargeron, a resident of nearby Ogden Dunes, has spent years transferring life’s observations into paintings. She also has a strong fondness for the Burns Harbor plant. Her husband, Walter, served as president of the Burns Harbor division from 1996 to 2000, and sadly, passed away two years ago.

“My association with the Burns Harbor facility goes back a long way when it was Bethlehem Steel,” recalls Jean. “It was always a marvelous facility – my husband and I were very proud of it and its people.”

Eight artists visited the plant in early May, setting up their outdoor studio in an open slab storage area of the facility. They spent the morning capturing the vibrant colors and geometric shapes of exterior buildings and other activity in the primary and raw materials areas of the facility using oil, water color and acrylic for their paintings.

Painting“Our mission is to paint in real time outdoors, early in the year when the weather breaks to the time the fall weather tells us to stop,” notes Jean. “From an artistic point of view, being in the plant is a very special, personal experience. To see and paint the geometry, texture and indeed the action was the reward. Several of our artists have never been in such an intense environment – the energy is everywhere. It was truly amazing! Our thanks to plant manager John Mengel for allowing us to paint our renderings of the facility.”

The Duneland Plein Air Painters have traveled weekly throughout Northwest Indiana and southwest Michigan to paint the dunes, beaches and surrounding farmlands, town squares and gardens. Painters use a variety of mediums including oil, watercolor, colored pencil, pastel, ink and charcoal. Carrying on a long tradition of painting outdoors in natural light, these artists record their impression of local scenes while dealing with elements of nature.

PaintingThe paintings of Burns Harbor operations, along with other pieces from the entire 2016 season, will be exhibited locally at a Duneland Plein Air Painter show in the fall. Afterwards, they will be available for sale. 

“It was such a privilege for me to return to the Burns Harbor site,” adds Jean. “My husband really loved that mill. I could feel him with me – and smiling.”

To view more of Jean’s artworks, visit jbdunes.com.

Painter Barbara Kork is pictured in banner image above. The pieces featured within this story were painted by Julia Holmaas. 

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