The scene would have made a haunting impressionist painting: artists in yellow hats manned easels along the water and committed to painting amid a blanket of fog and rain. Besides, for the artists, the rest of Lunenburg’s usually bustling waterfront was ghostly quiet.
Their bright yellow hats marked the artists as participants of the Paint Sea on Site Art Festival — which took place July 21 and 22 — and they did not stop for rain.
“We have a thing called rain sites,” explained Gill Osmond, the chair of Paint Sea on Site, when asked about the dreary weather. “We’ve covered that.”
More than 70 artists descended on the town over the course of the weekend. The art they produced — spanning every spectrum of painting style — served to raise funds for the Lunenburg Art Gallery. Artists and the gallery split the proceeds evenly.
Osmond, who offered up her own veranda to artists looking to escape the rain, noted that the festival is the gallery’s biggest fundraiser of the year. This was the festival’s 18th edition.
Osmond has been a part of the event since the beginning and said that it keeps getting bigger each year.
“We have buyers who come back year after year looking for a specific artist,” she said. “Very often the buyers are people who follow the art. They’ve been watching.”
Many of the artists set up along the waterfront or in other locations across Lunenburg. As they completed their paintings, runners collected the pieces and brought them to be displayed at the community centre. From there, the haggling began as buyers admired and bid on the art. Roughly 60 volunteers helped things run smoothly.
Artist Christa Specht, who grew up in Digby but lives in Halifax, was among the painters sitting in the rain along the waterfront and said she loved it.
“It’s addictive,” she said, proudly wearing her yellow hat. “Just to see what everybody else does around the gallery, it’s worth it just for that.”
This was the third year that Specht had attended the festival and according to Osmond, many of the same artists return year after year.
“Lunenburg is a fabulous place to paint,” she said. “A lot of it has to do with the water and whatever else is going on (along the waterfront).”
But the festival also serves as an artist incubator for painters along the South Shore. Osmond pointed out that the festival holds a painting session for 20 to 25 children every year and now some of the children who started out years ago have graduated to full-fledged artists.
“From being kid artists, they’ve learned and grown,” said Osmond.
The Lunenburg Art Gallery was contacted by the South Shore Breaker in an attempt to establish how much money was raised by the festival but the figures were not available due to outstanding bids. However, Osmond was able to say that the festival was “very successful.”
The festival is but one of a dozen events that have popped up in Lunenburg in recent years, which is not surprising considering the town is now home to some 20 art galleries.
On this day, however, when the weather drained the usually bright town, it was the artists from Paint Sea on Site who had enough paint to colour a rainy day.