T.C. Steele Festival of Flowers PaintOut

by Andrea deTarnowsky

The Festival of Flowers PaintOut is a relative newcomer compared to September’s annual Great Outdoor Art Contest, called the “granddaddy of Indiana paintouts” by the Indiana Plein Air Painting Association (IPAPA). The Festival of Flowers was created as a result of requests from artists who wanted to showcase Selma Steele’s gardens, just as T.C. Steele did.

Artists and visitors who come to enjoy the Festival of Flowers PaintOut on Saturday, May 22, will be able to enjoy the artistry of not only one Steele, but of two. While T.C. Steele occupied his time painting the landscape around him, Selma Neubacher Steele was creating her own “landscapes.” Selma’s gardens in May are a dazzling display of peonies, irises, foxgloves, and other “old-fashioned” favorites massed in garden beds and naturalized across the hillsides.

In 1907, artist Theodore Clement Steele decided to settle in the rugged hills of Brown County—the first artist to build his home there. Steele was a member of the famed “Hoosier Group” of American Impressionist painters and, at age 60, one of Indiana’s leading artists.

The home that T.C. Steele and his wife, Selma, called the “House of the Singing Winds” is now part of the T.C. Steele State Historic Site.

Artists of all ages spend the day drawing and painting as Steele and other early Brown County artists did—en pleine aire, outside in the open air and on site. Both are judged contests. Works of art to be entered for judging must be created on the day of the contest beginning no sooner than 7:00 a.m. Participating artists include all ranges in age and experience. Everyone is welcome, whether they compete or not.

An afternoon of music will begin at 1:00 p.m. This year, songwriter/performer Slats Klug, along with Lauren Robert and Robbie Bowden, will perform original songs about the early artists and their Brown County neighbors. Slats and Friends’ repertoire includes a song about the Steeles and their hilltop home.

Judging begins at 2:00 p.m. First place winning entries in each of six categories are displayed in Steele’s studio, on Steele’s easels, for one month for all to enjoy.

The T.C. Steele State Historic Site is part of the Department of Natural Resources Division of State Museums & Historic Sites. The site is located one and one-half miles south of Belmont off Indiana State Road 46 between Nashville and Bloomington. Contact the site at (812) 988-2785 or e-mail <tcsteele@bloomington.in.us> for hours and information.

The Festival of Flowers PaintOut is presented with support from the Bloomington Area Arts Council, Inc., the Indiana Arts Commission, a state agency and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency; also with assistance from Indiana Heritage Arts, Inc., an organization dedicated to nurturing and promoting Brown County’s arts heritage.