En Plein Air

Coutts Centre for Western Canadian Heritage

Select Summer Sundays

Every year from May to August The University of Lethbridge Art Gallery invites artists to join En Plein Air at the Coutts Centre for Western Canadian Heritage near Nanton, AB. We usually host 4 ‘open house’ days for artists to create and enjoy the use of the property together with other artists, friends and family.


Thank you for your patience, as we commence events in the face of the ongoing challenges of the pandemic. 2022 promises a return to En Plein Air outdoor events at the Coutts Centre, much as we’ve known them!

The Coutts Centre has many new developments enhancing the experience of Jim Coutts’ homestead. Words fail to convey the wonderful developments there…but DO check out the stone walkways, a ‘new’ greenhouse, the pavilion building, a new bandstand, AMAZING GARDENS…to cite a few!

There is NO CHARGE to participate as an En Plein Air Artist, or for attending the Coutts Centre. The Centre continues to offer itself to inspire, as per Jim Coutts’ vision.

All 4 En Plein Air dates will feature an optional Sunday Brunch, catered by Soul Sugar Catering (Okotoks), and served out of the North Barn, next to the bandstand. Brunches are: $20 for Adult; $18 for Seniors; $15 for 12 and under; Free for under 5 years old. Brunch will be a hot breakfast with gluten-free options!

Artists are welcome to bring their own lunches and dine in the garden or the pavilion. The U of L Art Gallery will be on-site providing basic drawing supplies and tools. Bottled water will be available in the ChickenHouse, along with self-serve coffee and tea – at no charge.


COUTTS CENTRE: EN PLEIN AIR 2022 SCHEDULE – (All dates are Sundays) – open 10am – 4pm*

*some Artists arrive earlier, some stay later – but these are the hours that will be staffed, with open public washroom access

If you are planning to attend as an En Plein Air Artist, email Jon Oxley  (jondotoxleyatulethdotca)   | Administrative Manager or call 403.329.2569 and let him know how many are attending with your ‘party’, so that Coutts Centre and Gallery Staff can plan for numbers and staffing needs. Even if you decide ‘last minute’, please let us know, whether you are arriving solo…or with the whole clan.


Other Summer 2022 artmaking opportunities at the Coutts Centre , May – Sept 2022:

For those who still want to make art at the Coutts Centre, it is possible  for solo Artists or small groups to go there, with commitment to ALL of the standards set by Alberta Health Services (we don’t know right now WHAT those restrictions will be at any one point in the summer). Here’s what you need to do:

  • Contact the Coutts Centre as long in advance as possible, to confirm your day and time range:
    • email: Coutts Centre  (couttsdotcentreatulethdotca)   or call 403.915.6497
  • Abide by any of the rules and conditions set by Coutts Centre Staff, who are committed to honouring both Alberta Health Services and University of Lethbridge conditions for access and use of the property
  • Coutts Centre staff will:
    • ‘okay’, or: offer alternate dates/times
    • direct your parking and access
    • open public washrooms


Frequently Asked Questions:

Do I need to wear a mask? 

  • Not outdoors. If you find yourself in one of the buildings, with many others, you may want to. The U of L Art Gallery and Coutts Centre will have disposable masks on-site. The Coutts Centre is subject to any health restrictions posted by the Province or the University at any given time.

Can I come with a group?

  • Sure. But if they want to eat Brunch, make sure they have tickets, as most brunches will be ‘pre-sold’ by ticket. The caterer has some capacity for on-demand brunches.

What buildings are open?

  • Most buildings will be accessible: 
    • Pavilion – for dining, shelter and live music
    • ChickenHouse – for art supplies, self-serve coffee and tea, bottled water, shelter, conversation
    • North Barn – where the brunch action is
    • Greenhouse – it’s a work of art…you have to see it!
    • Camera Obscura
    • Art Shack, South Barn – public washroom building

NOTE The Main House is typically locked, unless a tour is scheduled.

Is there food for purchase on-site?

Is there wi-fi?

  • Yes, the University of Lethbridge’s open wi-fi network

What’s phone service like?

  • Depends on your phone service provider, but mostly good

What if it rains? Or if it’s too hot?

  • It’s beautiful when it rains – but there’s lots of indoor space to get out of the rare squalls. There’s also lots of cool shade!

What if it’s windy?

  • Yeah, well…it IS southern Alberta

Can I attend the Coutts Centre on other days?

  • Yes, but email the Coutts Centre first Coutts Centre  (couttsdotcentreatulethdotca)   to make sure your visit doesn’t clash with a site booking or construction project

Can family join Artists for En Plein Air?

  • Of course. Lots of people bring books, laptops and cameras…and spend a lovely day at their own pace.

Can I bring my dog?

  • Yes, provided the dog is well controlled and toileted. There ARE older free-range cats living on site – dogs must be controlled to prevent them from chasing the cats.

Can I bring my cat?

  • Sure…but why?

Can I bring a kite or a frisbee?

  • Please DO!

What kind of artists are welcome?

  • We don’t have a pre-conceived notion of this – Jim Coutts intended the site to inspire and promote all forms of the arts, and we welcome visual, photographic, and sculptural artists, playwrights, novelists, Blackfoot beaders and round-dancers, Shakespearean troupes, opera singers, folk artists, multi-media artists, bloggers, social media influencers, and Tibetan sand painters. We may have missed a few…but hope we made our point.

MORE QUESTIONS? Email Jon Oxley  (jondotoxleyatulethdotca)   | Administrative Manager or call 403.329.2569 – he will try to answer anything not covered here.