It was an era when early California impressionism was just beginning to be documented by scholars. In 1982 Ruth Westphal published the resource book Plein-Air Painters of California The Southland, followed four years later by The Northland. Major collections were being built, and prices for historic paintings were rising. Burns, who was president of the Catalina Art Association at the time, felt the moment had arrived to educate collectors about contemporary artists pursuing the art of painting from life.
With the encouragement of her friend and Catalina neighbor, art collector Roy Rose (grand nephew of California impressionist Guy Rose) Burns handpicked 20 artists to participate in the First Annual Plein-Air Painters Festival, October 30-November 2, 1986. The concept was to come to Catalina Island, as did so many early California Impressionists, paint outdoors for a week, then sell the paintings in a Saturday evening exhibition.
That format continued with minor variations through 2003, when the last PAPA-sanctioned exhibition and sale took place on Catalina Island. Today, PAPA exhibitions and sales are held from coast to coast. Recent exhibitions have been held in such prestigious venues as The Haggin Museum, Stockton, California, and the Academy Art Museum, Easton, Maryland.