Painted Barrels 2009: A New Trail to Finger Lakes Fun

If you have traveled to Rochester, New York City, Chicago or a number of other cities, you may have seen animals – cows, ponies, pigs – painted in remarkable colors and designs as part of a community art series.

This fall as you meander the byways of the Finger Lakes Region, you will have an opportunity to see a regional art project that is the first of its kind – the Painted Barrels of the Finger Lakes.

The Painted Barrels Trail is a new initiative of Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association located in Corning.

“I started investigating where wine barrels had been used as part of a trail and I was surprised to discover that it had never happened before in the United States,” explained Morgen McLaughlin, president of Finger Lakes Wine Country. “A painted wine barrel trail is such a perfect fit for this region!”

In late spring, a call went out soliciting Finger Lakes artists who were interested in painting barrels to be showcased at wineries and attractions throughout the Finger Lakes.

“We ended up with close to 40 artists, and as the barrels are finished, they are displayed on the four wine trails as well as in the Corning area and around Elmira,” said Morgen.

Meg Columbo, an artist who painted the barrel displayed at the New York Wine and Culinary Center in Canandaigua, and who is also e-brands manager for Finger Lakes Visitors Connection, shared her experience.

“I first learned about the project through Facebook. It was a fantastic experience! I haven’t painted in about seven years, and I’ve always enjoyed landscapes, which is why I love Finger Lakes scenery. I found that painting on the rough texture of the barrels was fun and really enhanced the image.”

Meg used a primer on the wine barrel, then added her image using exterior latex paint to prevent damage from outdoor exposure. She left the metal hoops exposed, but many other artists incorporated the hoops into their image. Her painting shows a distant farm in the middle of cultivated fields.

The designs on the barrels are as varied as Finger Lakes wines.

For example, at Buttonwood Grove Winery in Romulus, Abbey McComb has covered the entire barrel with a scene of Finger Lakes fish and added a decoy duck to the head, or top, of the barrel.

In a very different treatment, at Heart & Hands Wine Company in Union Springs, Melissa Littlejohn of Mackenzie-Childs has turned the barrel on its side and painted a beautiful landscape surrounded by a scrollwork frame.

While the majority of barrels show an array of landscapes, the collection also includes works with abstract designs. Americana Winery’s barrel by Ed Marion is ablaze with red, white and blue while the Rockwell Museum of Western Art’s barrel by Hallie Weakland displays the museum’s signature buffalo on the barrel’s head and a geometric paisley and swirl design on the staves.

There is no charge to view the painted barrels on this trail, and a map is available online with barrel locations as well as information on lodging, dining, shopping and attractions along the Painted Barrel Trail.

Have your photo taken next to 25 or more of the Painted Barrels, submit them on a disk to Finger Lakes Wine Country and your name will be entered into a drawing to win a Finger Lakes Wine Country Experience Gift Pack worth over $500!

Should you decide that one of the barrels would look perfect in your home or business, place an online bid between now and 5 p.m. on October 11, and you just might win it. Proceeds from the sale of each barrel will be shared between the artist and Finger Lakes Wine Country.

So whatever your taste in art, wine or adventure, the Painted Barrel Trail offers another new and exciting way to tour the Finger Lakes.

To download a map of the Painted Barrel Trail, view the entire collection, or bid on one of the pieces, visit

by Carol White Llewellyn
Carol White Llewellyn is a frequent contributor to Life in the Finger Lakes magazine.

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