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Come Rain Or Come Shine: The Festival Of Flowers PaintOut

The tradition of painting outdoors on this particular hilltop dates back to 1907, when a well-known American Impressionist purchased the abandoned farmstead.

  • PaintOut Photo 2

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    Photo: Andrea deTarnowsky

    A painter takes other painters as her subject in the Festival of Flowers Paint Out.

  • Artist at work 2

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    Photo: Andrea deTarnowsky

    A Paint Out participant at the Steele site.

  • Artists in the garden

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    Photo: Andrea deTarnowsky

    Artists arranged around Selma's garden for the Paint Out.

  • PaintOut--Rain or shine 2

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    Photo: Andrea deTarnowsky

    Participants paint in the rain near T.C. Steele's Large Studio.

  • PaintOut Photo 1

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    Photo: Andrea deTarnowsky

    Artists inspired by the House of the Singing Winds, the Steeles' nickname for their hilltop home.

Event Information

Festival of Flowers Paint Out

An outdoor painting contest in Brown County.


T.C. Steele State Historic Site, off Hwy 46 just west of Nashville

Saturday, May 21, 7 am to 2 pm

Registration fee for artists; free to general public.

At the stroke of 7 on the morning of Saturday, May 21, around a hundred artists will ascend a wooded hill in Brown County and set up easels to draw and paint furiously for seven hours, as part of the Tenth Annual Festival of Flowers PaintOut contest.

The T.C. Steele State Historic Site provides the primary setting for the event.

“Whatever is submitted for judging has to be created that day, and it has to be created in Brown County,” explains program manager Andrea deTarnowsky, manager of the historic site. “The artists are not required to stay on the site, but many of them do.”

Artists Touch Nature And The Past

The tradition of painting outdoors on this particular piece of property near Nashville, Indiana dates back to 1907, when Theodore Clement Steele purchased the overgrown hilltop farm with his second wife, Selma. The internationally recognized Hoosier Group Impressionist built a bungalow and several freestanding studios on the hilltop, while Selma redesigned the landscape.

“The paint-out celebrates the artwork of two Steeles,” notes deTarnowsky. “Mrs. Steele, the gardener of the family, who took pride in creating inspiring landscapes, and T.C. Steele, who was primarily a plein air painter, painting outdoors in the open air.”

In keeping with the plein air tradition, the Paint Out will be held rain or shine. Judging begins at 2 pm near the Formal Garden.

Participants must register in advance for the contest, which is open to artists of all ages and skill levels. For the first time this year, a cash prize will be awarded to the top entry by a teen-age participant. The award is given in the memory of the late Catherine Jane Burris, a Columbus artist and teacher who supported art programs for young people.

Much More Than Just A Competition

Beyond drawing and painting, artists are invited to submit entries in the Garden Art category, which covers three-dimensional, weather-resistant sculpture and assemblage. The first place and “People’s Choice” award winners will have their artwork exhibited in the Large Studio, where many of Steele’s own paintings are on display, for thirty days after the event.

The Festival of Flowers PaintOut is a spectator event. The program invites the non-painting public to tour Steele’s historic home and studio, enjoy jazz and boogie-woogie performed by the Craig Brenner Trio from 1 to 3 pm, and watch a demonstration of watercolor and collage techniques by Artist-in-Residence Cheryl Kaldahl.

Above all, deTarnowsky emphasizes, the PaintOut is an opportunity to observe artists at work. “It’s one thing to see artwork displayed on the wall. It’s quite another to see artists out there creating it, being inspired by the same landscape that inspired Steele a hundred years ago. You get that living presence of art.”

Yaël Ksander

WFIU's Arts Desk Editor, Yaël seeks out and shepherds the stories of artists, musicians, writers, and other creative people. In addition, Yaël co-hosts A Moment of Science, writes essays for A Moment of Indiana History, produces Speak Your Mind (WFIU's guest editorial segment), hosts music and news hours throughout the week, and lends her voice to everything from accounting courses to nature documentaries. Yaël holds a MFA in painting from Indiana University, an MA in art history from Columbia University, and a BA from the University of Virginia, where she studied languages and literature.

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