Beneficiaries of AO paddle art auction thrilled with community support for the arts


By the time the proverbial dust had settled following a bidding frenzy in the Algonquin Outfitters online paddle art auction, a total of $20,094 had been raised in support of local art. It was an amount that thrilled the recipients of those funds – Oxtongue Lake for Arts and Culture (OLAC) and the Town of Huntsville’s reserve fund for future acquisition of public art.

“We were blown away with how successful it was,” said Chris Woods, co-chair of OLAC. “We were so honoured that Algonquin Outfitters considered us worthy of receiving some of the proceeds from the auction.”

Oxtongue Lake for Arts and Culture was formed in 2013 when they learned that Group of Seven painter A.J. Casson had stayed at Blue Spruce Resort on Oxtongue Lake and had painted scenes of the area while there. Its first project was an outdoor art exhibit at the Oxtongue Lake Community Centre featuring murals of Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven works that were painted along the Oxtongue River, Oxtongue Lake and through to Marsh’s Falls in Dwight.

They then began to research more than 25 locations of paintings done in the area and are working to place interpretive signs at as many as possible.

“The funds raised will be used to continue to preserve these sites that no one knew about, and to continue to explore and expand on what we have done so far with the plaques,” said Woods.

Rich Swift and Randy Mitson are fantastic supporters of OLAC, and we continue to praise them for how they recognize that, along with adventure, along with paddling, the arts are just as important. The Group of Seven painted in this area and changed the world of art. We have to continue to acknowledge that and never lose sight of it.
Chris Woods, co-chair, Oxtongue Lake for Arts and Culture

Teri Souter, the Town of Huntsville’s Manager of Arts, Culture and Heritage, was equally thrilled with the results of the auction.

“Algonquin Outfitters has been a partner and supporter of the Tom Thomson 100th anniversary celebration that the Town has undertaken from 2012 to 2017. It’s wonderful (for the Town) to be able to sponsor the paddle art contest and auction, it’s really heartening that Council got behind supporting this event, and it’s incredibly inspiring the art that resulted from it,” said Souter. The Town’s share of the auction proceeds, along with commissions from Janine Marson’s show in Partners Hall – Through Tom’s Eyes –  earlier this summer, will almost double the Town’s reserve fund for the future acquisition of public art.

The reserve fund has been steadily growing since it was established in 2010, mostly from the commissions on sales of art in the Canada Summit Centre gallery and Partners Hall. In early September, the fund was at $8,700; these two recent events along with other commissions will push it over $15,000.

The auction results

When Algonquin Outfitters hatched the idea for a paddle art contest, they had no idea what kind of interest it would generate.

The contest launched at the Reel Paddling Film Festival at the Algonquin Theatre on June 3, 2016. AO set a goal of 100 submissions and $10,000 raised at the paddle auction to follow for its two chosen recipients.

Submissions were slow at first, but then as the contest gained momentum in its final weeks the number of paddles received doubled those expectations, with 206 received by the time the contest closed, and AO wondered if they might also double their fundraising goal.

The contest ended on August 31, after which art and paddling enthusiasts alike could bid on their favourites until the online auction closed at midnight on September 29. In the final hours of the auction, Algonquin Outfitters hosted a live event at the Algonquin Theatre where the paddles were on display and local musician Sean Cotton provided entertainment, playing a paddle guitar submitted for the contest. 

Bidding was fierce that night, at times overwhelming the auction site with high traffic volumes.

Beautiful paddles were on display for the Algonquin Outfitters Paddle Art Auction

Beautiful paddles were on display for the Algonquin Outfitters Paddle Art Auction

“We received nearly 3,000 online bids,” said Randy Mitson, AO’s Marketing Director. “It was a huge success, so successful that our website saw hundreds of people all trying to bid in the last few hours at the same time which did result in some website traffic jams. There were a few lessons learned for next time we host this event.”

In the end, the auction raised a total of $20,094 for the two arts groups.

Two of the three paddles that received the highest bids were submitted by local artists Janine Marson and Don MacKenzie who both asked not to be included in the contest. Janine’s “Tom Thomson” painted paddle garnered a bid of $675 while Don’s carved “Eagle Feather” earned $601.

Between the two was a paddle painted by Christine Gagné, “The Journey Begins”, which sold for $671, putting it first in the contest. Christine says she was shocked by the win.

“I’ve always wanted to get my name out there as an artist,” she said, adding that she had loved art since she was five years old, but stopped painting for a while as an adult. She picked it up again, often painting on objects like feathers, and has even connected with renowned wildlife painter Robert Bateman who encouraged her to put her art on canvas.

Her paddle depicts a bear, moose and howling wolf on one side, and a tranquil scene with loons on the other.

“I wanted to do something to portray (Algonquin Park) in the paddle with a Tom Thomson twist,” said Christine. “I wanted to paint something people could relate to.” She picked up a paddle on a trip to Algonquin Park this summer and got to work, submitting her entry just two weeks before the deadline.

Christine, along with the artists of the eight other paddles that received top bids, gets to choose from among some amazing prizes from Algonquin Outfitters and other sponsors: a Badger paddle, an Algonquin Outfitters three-day Ultimate Canoe Trip for two, a Mosquito.Buzz cottage treatment, a Nixon watch, a White Birches Resort getaway for two, a North Art Supplies gift certificate, painting lessons with Janine Marson, a gift certificate for a Yakima rack, and Algonquin Outfitters gift certificates.

The paddle contest entries that earned the highest bids were:

  1. The Journey Begins by Christine Gagné, London, Ontario ($671)
  2. Tom’s Paddle and Palette by Louise Scott-Bushell ($401)
  3. Jack Pine by Catharine de Mountmorency, Etobicoke, Ontario ($400)
  4. A Spirit’s Journey by Dawna VanSoelen, East Garafraxa, Ontario ($365)
  5. The Muses by Greg Hodge, Brighton, Ontario ($350)
  6. Tom’s Skull by Tyler Muzzin, Woodstock, Ontario ($330)
  7. Northern Lights by Robert McAffee ($325)
  8. Alerted Moose in Moonlight by Carole Thur, Bracebridge, Ontario ($313)
  9. Algonquin Loon by Sean Lehan, Kitchener, Ontario ($311)
  10. Family and Friends at Oxtongue by Shelley Boerkamp, Waterford, Ontario ($305)

You can see all of the paddles and bids at

We are thrilled with the results of the auction and happy to support these two great organizations, as well as bringing awareness to the importance of supporting arts and culture. The artists showed tremendous creativity in all of their submissions – thank you to all for your efforts.
Randy Mitson

Algonquin Outfitters plans to run another paddle art contest, likely opening in the spring of 2018 and closing in the fall of 2019.

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