The beautiful Columbia River Gorge is a plein air painter’s dream, which is why the Pacific Northwest Plein Air festival attracts many of the country’s most vaunted artists every year. In 2017, 42 artists scaled cliffs and hiked cavernous trails to capture that perfect vista in hopes of earning the top prize.

Hosted by the lovely Maryhill Museum of Art between July 31 and August 4, the Pacific Northwest Plein Air festival has been a major draw for outdoor painters. Not only does the competition offer a range of tantalizing prizes in several categories, but the region around the Columbia River gorge is the stuff plein air dreams are made of.

by Aimee Erickson (First Place, Overall)
by Eric Jacobsen (Second Place, Overall)
by Thomas Kitts (Third Place, Overall)

In 2017, 42 artists joined the festival, including Celeste Bergin, Don Bishop, Brenda Boylan, Laurel Bushman, William Elston, Aimee Erickson, Eduardo Fernandez, Laura Gable, Scott Gellatly, Carole Gray-Weihman, Bonnie Griffith, Dotty Hawthorne, Steven Hill, Yong Hong Zhong, Eric Jacobsen, Jan Jewell, Aaron Johnson, Anita Johnston, Thomas Kitts, Bhavani Krishnan, Mary Lamery, Anna Lancaster, John Laney, Tracy Leagjeld, Michael Lindstrom, Sergio Lopez, Jennifer McGill, Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki, Anton Pavlenko, Katey Ellen Price, Joanne Radmilovich Kollman, Mike Rangner, Cathleen Rehfeld, Sally Reichmuth, Stanley Robinson, Kristina Sellers, Matt Sterbenz, Susan Sutherland, Melanie Thompson, Patty Voje, Za Vue, and Elo Wobig.

by Aaron Johnson (Maryhill Museum Award)
by Matt Sterbenz (National Scenic Area Award)
by Brenda Boylan (Honorable Mention)
by Yong Zhong (Honorable Mention)
by Kristina Sellers (Best Water Award)
by Aimee Erickson (Museum Purchase Award)

Throughout the four-day event, artists drove, biked, and hiked to various locations around the Gorge, including on the grounds of the Maryhill museum. On August 4, the museum hosted an opening reception for an exhibition of completed works in which artists were honored with awards. The exhibition continues through August 27.

Laura Gable (Honorable Mention)
by Cathleen Rehfeld (Best Mountain Award)
by Thomas Kitts (Museum Purchase Award)
by Yer Za Vue (Honorable Mention)

The big winner this year was rising star Aimee Erickson, who took home the First Place Award, followed by Eric Jacobsen and Thomas Kitts in Second Place and Third Place respectively.  Both Kitts and Erickson also received the Museum Purchase Award.  Aaron Johnson was honored with the Maryhill Museum Award while Kristina Sellers grabbed the Best Water Award.  The Best Mountain Award was taken by Cathleen Rehfeld, Melanie Thompson won Best Sky Award, and Matt Sterbenz earned the National Scenic Area award.  Honorable mentiones included Brenda Boylan, Laura Gable, Yong Zhong, and Yer Za Vue.

To learn more, visit the Maryhill Museum of Art.

This article was featured in PleinAir Today, a weekly e-newsletter from PleinAir magazine. To start receiving PleinAir Today for free, click here.

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