Plein Air Competition Coming to Canandaigua

Painting by George Van Hook

Finger Lakes Plein Air Competition & Festival Brings Accomplished Artists To Capture Ontario County’s Beauty

The Finger Lakes Plein Air Competition & Festival, now in its eighth year, offers opportunities for art lovers and collectors to learn more about the contemporary plein air painting movement in their own backyard.  Sponsored in part by the Ontario County Arts Council, the festival takes its name from the French term for “open air.” 

During the festival, come rain or shine, more than 40 accomplished artists from across the country and Canada will set their easels up on roadsides, in parks, and in fields throughout Ontario County from Tuesday, June 4, 2019 through Saturday, June 8, 2019, to paint works that will be judged and sold during the festival.  At stake is more than $7,000 in prizes. 

Many well-known vistas, including the lookout over Canandaigua Lake on County Road 12 in South Bristol and the gazebo in Kershaw Park, are among those the artists choose to paint. Local residents can register on the festival website,, to give artists access to some of the region’s lesser-known sights.

Hiu Lai Chong of Rockville, Maryland will travel to Canandaigua to judge the paintings completed during the festival. Hiu is an accomplished oil painter who uses vivid colors and sensitive brushstrokes to express mood and feeling in her paintings. She has won numerous awards and is a signature member of Oil Painters of America, American Society of Marine Artists, Laguna Plein Air Painters, Mid-Atlantic Plein Air Painters Association and artist member of California Art Club and Washington Society of Landscape Painters. She will hold a three-day artists’ workshop from Monday, June 10, 2019 through Wednesday, June 12, 2019.  Local artists accepted into this year’s competition include Steve BonDurant of Macedon, Kevin Feary of Batavia, Kari Ganoung Ruiz of Interlaken, Chris Kolupski of Rochester, and Judy Soprano of Livonia. Ruiz won Best in Show in the 2017 festival.  You may find the complete listing of juried artists on our website.

The festival gets started with the artists’ arrival on Tuesday, June 4. The first major event is the day-long Paint Out along the Canandaigua Wine Trail on Thursday, June 6, with freshly painted works on sale from 6 to 8 p.m. at Hazlitt’s Red Cat Cellars in Naples. A busy weekend schedule begins on Saturday, June 8, with a Quick Draw Competition and wet paint sale by the plein air artists in downtown Canandaigua from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.  On Saturday night, from 6 to 9 p.m, there will be a ticketed Preview Party and Exhibition ($35) by competition artists held at the newly-renovated permanent tent at Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion in Canandaigua . The event features a cash bar and light fare and gives attendees a chance to purchase artwork created during the competition.

On Sunday, June 9th, Finger Lakes Plein Air and the Ontario Arts Council will host a Community Paint Out for local and regional artists at Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion in Canandaigua. Registration begins at 9:30 a.m. ($10 entry fee for artists, free to visitors), painting occurs from 10:30 to 12:30 a.m., and judging will take place from 1:30 to 2 p.m. Cash prizes will be awarded at 2 p.m. Sunday also features a day-long exhibition and sale of work by the juried-in artists at Sonnenberg Garden’s Carriage House from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Entry to the Sunday, June 9 Public Exhibition and Sale is free and open to the public with food available for purchase.

Volunteers are still needed to help set up and run events and answer questions about the festival. To volunteer or get more information, call 585-394-0030, email to or visit

Key festival events are as follows:

June 6: Visiting artists will paint along the Canandaigua Lake Wine Trail with the public invited to a wet paint show and sale of the day’s work at Hazlitt’s Red Cat Cellars in Naples from 6 to 8 p.m. Admission is free.

June 8: Plein Air Artists Quick Draw Competition, downtown Canandaigua, 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. registration, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. painting, and awards at 12:30 p.m. at the Commons Park on South Main Street, art on sale through 2 p.m.

June 8: Preview Party Exhibition and Sale, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Sonnenberg Gardens, 151 Charlotte Street, Canandaigua. Festival winners announced, cash bar and light fare, music. Tickets are $35, available at Pat Rini Rohrer Gallery, 71 South Main Street, Canandaigua or (585) 394-0030.

June 9: Community Paint Out, Sonnenberg Gardens in Canandaigua, 9:30 a.m. registration (advance online registration recommended), 10:30 to 12:30 p.m. painting, cash prizes at 2 p.m., exhibition and sale through 4 p.m. at Sonnenberg Garden’s Carriage House. $10 entry fee for artists, free to visitors.

June 9: Finger Lakes Plein Air Competition and Festival Exhibition and Sale, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sonnenberg Gardens Carriage House, free entry, food and drinks available for purchase.

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