Recent studies have shown that time spent in nature sparks and improves creativity, along with its other many benefits. That’s nothing new: artists have long been inspired by nature, wildlife, and the great outdoors, and Maine has long been an ideal setting. This September, the eight Maine Audubon wildlife sanctuaries will serve as inspiration and provide creative sparks for plein air painters and the public in the inaugural Brush with Nature event.

Twenty-five plein air painters will be painting between Sept. 9 and 12 at the eight Maine Audubon sanctuaries, from southern Maine tidal pools and rocky shores at East Point Audubon Sanctuary in Biddeford Pool to the Western Maine lakes and peaks of Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary. The sanctuaries cover the whole spectrum of habitats, from the state’s largest salt marsh at Scarborough Marsh, to a coastal forest and freshwater marsh at Hamilton Audubon Sanctuary in West Bath. Farnsworth Art Museum curator Jane Bianco and artist Scott Kelley served as jurors for Brush with Nature, selecting the artists in June.

The public is encouraged to come watch the artists at work and are invited to create their own works — paintings, poetry, drawings, movement — during their visit. Live streaming will also be available, on Maine Audubon’s Facebook page (, to watch remotely.

Between Sept. 17-26, these special original works of art will be available for bidding in an online auction, with proceeds benefiting Maine Audubon’s education, conservation, and advocacy programs. In-person previews will be available starting Sept. 18 at Gilsland Farm Audubon Sanctuary, 20 Gilsland Farm Road, Falmouth, during regular opening hours (the visitor center and Nature Store are open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Bidding (online at will close on Sept. 26 at 5 p.m.

“A plein art painting festival seemed like such a natural fit for Maine Audubon,” says Jenn Schmitt, Maine Audubon’s strategic audience engagement manager. Schmitt, who oversees the art gallery at the Gilsland Farm Audubon Center and organizes the annual craft fair, says, “At the beginning of the year, we were trying to decide if we could hold our annual fall Nature of Craft show. With all the uncertainty around the pandemic, we brainstormed other ways to showcase our sanctuaries, highlight the beauty and importance of wildlife and habitat, and underscore the connection between art and nature — and plein air painting was a perfect fit.”

Sanctuaries include:

East Point Audubon Sanctuary, Biddeford Pool

Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center, Scarborough

Gilsland Farm Audubon Center, Falmouth

Mast Landing Audubon Sanctuary, Freeport

Hamilton Audubon Sanctuary, West Bath

Josephine Newman Audubon Sanctuary, Georgetown

Fields Pond Audubon Center, Holden

Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary, Elliotsville.

For more information and a full list of participating artists, go to