With only a few days left before the close of its charity art contest, Algonquin Outfitters (AO) is coming up blank.

The Paddle Art Contest runs every two years and has contestants putting an artistic spin on a blank wooden paddle, whether that be painting, carving, burning, or something else. Contestants are then supposed to return the paddle to AO by August 31st. The art piece will then be auctioned off to support local arts organizations.

The second part is where they’re running into problems, according to AO Marketing Director Randy Mitson.

“We’ve had a lot of people pick up the paddle blanks, and we’ve only got a few back so far, only about 25,” says Mitson. “We know that there’s hundreds of paddle blanks out there that people have worked on and maybe are finishing last-minute, so if they could bring them back to any of our stores and submit them into the contest, [they can still] go into the auction.”

All of the money raised from the auction will go towards supporting the arts, according to Mitson. As an extra incentive, the paddles that raise the most money at auction will net the artist a prize. This year’s recipients will be the Town of Huntsville’s public art reserve fund, Algonquin Art Centre in Algonquin Park, Huntsville Art Society, Huntsville Festival of the Arts, Tom Thomson Gallery in Owen Sound, and the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough.

This initiative of “art supporting art,” as Mitson puts it, raised more than $20,000 with 206 paddles during its first run in 2017. In 2019, 182 paddles raised almost $33,000. Mitson says every time the auction runs, the result “blows his expectations out of the water,” and that hopefully this year will be no different.

“I like to set lofty goals, but I don’t know how I can set a goal bigger than $33,000, so I’m happy if we get 10 grand, or 20 grand, or 33,” says Mitson. “It’s very great to see all the generosity of all the people in the community, the artists that make the paddles, and all the people who bid on them too.”

2020’s Group of Seven Canoe Murals (Photo taken by Martin Halek)

This year, the auction will also feature the Group of Seven canoe murals, painted by local artist Gerry Lantaigne in 2020. All submitted paddles will be on display at Algonquin Theatre’s Partners Hall from September 13th to September 27th, the duration of the online auction.