By Elizabeth Bate

Gary Blundell wants Highlands painters to get outside this September.
The organizer of the Highlands East Plein Air Arts Festival is receiving positive feedback from artists across the province about the four-day event to be held Sept. 10 to 13 but hopes for more local registrants as the summer goes on.
While the event has already seen interested painters from as far away as Barrie Ottawa and even Quebec Blundell would like to see more local talent showcased at the event.
“We could really use some local people signing up” said Blundell. “There could be a whole bunch of people who really love outdoor painting here.”
The outdoor painting festival includes a Saturday night dinner for all participants and a juried art show and sale including a $200 prize. Participants also have the chance to be exhibited at the Rails End Gallery.
The gallery showcased some of last year’s local artists for the first time this year and Blundell says it hopes to repeat the exhibit every two years.
The event gives maps of the region to participants and encourages them to explore the area as they spend the first three days painting.
“At least half of the locations are different than they were last year so we have a whole bunch of new locations. It just gives people different places to go to” he said.
Blundell is an artist with an interest in industrial spaces so he was cognizant of not including just the traditional lake and forest outdoor spaces when doing the planning for this year’s festival.
“We have also included not just natural areas for people to go to paint like lakes and rivers and rapids we’ve also included some industrial heritage sites” he said.
Participants are not required to stick to the mapped out locations however because the festival coincides with Doors Open Blundell hopes the event will draw those that want to spend the afternoon hiking through the Highlands and watching painters work outdoors.
“I felt that is was a good thing for the municipality and would encourage people to come into the community” said Blundell.
After the participants are done painting they’ll kick up their heels at the Robert McCausland Memorial Centre in Gooderham Saturday night and then exhibit their works in the show and sale on Sunday.
Blundell said about 20 per cent of each work sold will go back into the festival but the remaining money goes to the artists.
Artists are allowed to exhibit up to six works at the sale three must be from the year’s festival and all of them must be painted outside.
For now the festival only accommodates painters however Blundell says he hopes to include more media in future years.
“I’m thinking of expanding it down the road” he said.
“I’m thinking this could be a stepping off point to something bigger.”
Those interested in registering can sign up online at or by vising the municipal office in Wilberforce.