Plein Air Festival Celebrates Tradition of Outdoor Painting

Peninsula School of Art is presenting its 17th Door County Plein Air Festival with free and ticketed events July 23-29, and an online exhibition and sale July 30 – Aug. 13.

Plein air painting has long been a tradition in Door County, beginning with the artist communities that professors from the School of the Art Institute in Chicago established on the peninsula during the early 1920s. They had heard of Door County’s natural beauty and knew it would be the perfect place for a summer art school. Little evidence of those initial artist communities remains, but what has endured is the desire to experience landscape painting and drawing outdoors in Door County.

That’s why each July, Peninsula School of Art brings together painters from across the nation to honor this outdoor tradition. This year’s event features 33 invited artists, including 2022 winners Hector Acuna, Christine Lashley, Danny Griego and Olena Babek. It also features 11 artists who are new to Door County.

On July 25, all of the invited artists will participate in a sunset paint in Sister Bay, and at dusk, they will take their completed works to the lawn of the Dörr Hotel for public viewing. 

Another festival highlight is the July 29 Quick Paint competition in Fish Creek, where artists complete paintings in fewer than two hours that are then sold during a silent auction on the Great Lawn of the art school’s campus. 

Kids can join in the fun, too, with painting kits that are available on a first-come, first-serve basis at Peninsula School of Art.

Although most events are free and open to the public, Palette Pass ticket holders have exclusive access to the July 28 collector’s preview: the first chance to view and purchase works that were created during this year’s festival. The preview event will also feature food, beverages and live music on the art school’s campus. A limited number of Palette Passes are available.

The artists’ events close July 29 with the free Open Door Celebration, when visitors can see fresh works in Peninsula School of Art’s gallery, tour the campus and perhaps take home a piece of Door County on canvas. All works will be available for viewing and purchase, both in person and online. Find a complete schedule of events and their locations at